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Copyright 1990 

North Carolina Museum of Art, 

Raleigh, North Carolina. 

All rights reserved. 

ISSN 0029-2567 

LC 64-3282 

Published annually, 

four numbers per volume, 

S4 per issue. 

North Carolina Museum of Art 
21 10 Blue Ridge Boulevard 
Raleigh, North Carolina 27607 
(919) 833-1935 

Cover: Head of a bearded man, 
North Carolina Museum of Art. Gift 
of Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Hanes. 

North Carolina 

Volume XIV, Number 4 

Museum of Art Bulletin 

2 Director's Note 

4 Cesnola's Legacy: An Example of the Greek 

Influence on Archaic Cypriot Sculpture 

Diana Buitron-Oliver 

12 Tradition and Innovation: A Statue of Aphrodite 

Mary Ellen Soles 

20 Social Status, Marriage, and Male Heirs in the Age 

of Augustus: A Roman Funerary Relief 

Diana E. E. Kleiner 

30 The Rise of the Severan Dynasty in the East: Young 

Caracalla, about the Year 205, as Helios-Sol 

Cornelius C. Vermeule 

50 The Iconography of Marriage and Death in Ancient 

Italy: A Funerary Vase from Centuripe 

J. R. Green 

Raleigh 1990 


DEC 11 1990 


Funerary vase, North Carolina 
Museum of Art. Purchased with 
funds from the State of North 
Carolina. 75. 1. 9 


Director's Note 

From 1957 to 1980, the North Carolina Museum 
of Art published Bulletin, a scholarly publication 
that focused attention on the Museum's collection. 
Publication of Bulletin was interrupted in 1980, 
when the staff was consumed with the myriad 
urgent details involved in moving to the new build- 
ing. Under former director E. Peters Bowron's 
leadership, not only was the collection moved, but 
also it was reexamined by the curators and by the 
conservators. This preliminary study illuminated the 
need for additional work on the collection, in terms 
of both scholarship and restoration. Some of the 
new information that came to light at the time was 
proudly presented on the walls of the new building 
in reattributions and didactic wall labels. 

Since then, further study of the collection has 
been done by the Museum's curators as well as by 
outside authorities. The resulting scholarship 
deserves a forum that permits focused documenta- 
tion of specific works. To reflect the chronology of 
our collection, this first issue is devoted to five clas- 
sical works in the Museum. It is with pride that we 
present the scholarship of Diana E. E. Kleiner, 
Cornelius C. Vermeule, Diana Buitron-Oliver, and 

J. R. Green, as well as that of Mary Ellen Soles, 
Curator of Ancient Art at the Museum. We plan to 
offer Bulletin on an annual basis to interested 
colleagues here and abroad, and we hope that this 
distribution will stimulate further writing about the 
Museum's collection from outside scholars. 

I would like to express my thanks to Mary Ellen 
Soles, who served as the curatorial coordinator of 
this long-awaited issue of Bulletin; to Ann 
Waterfall, who serves as managing editor; and to 
Doug Clouse and Jennie Malcolm, who designed 
this handsome publication. The rebirth of Bulletin is 
made possible by grants from the Samuel H. 
Kress Foundation and the Newington-Cropsey 
Foundation. We are grateful for their generosity and 
are excited about reestablishing this vital link 
between the scholarly community and the North 
Carolina Museum of Art. 

Richard S. Schneiderman 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV Number 4 



Cesnola's Legacy: An Example of the Greek 
Influence on Archaic Cypriot Sculpture 

by Diana Buitron-Oliver 

Situated at the eastern end of the Mediterra- 
nean, closer to Syria and Lebanon than to Greece, the island 
of Cyprus has been throughout its history a strategic stop on 
profitable trade routes and a crossroads for many people: 
Phoenician, Persian, Egyptian, Greek, Turkish, and British, 
to name only a few across the ages. Americans are known to 
have visited the island as early as the 1820s and 1830s, when 
courageous and dedicated missionaries made Cyprus the 
scene of their labors. 

The most famous of all Americans to visit 
the island was the clever and audacious soldier of fortune of 
Italian birth, Luigi Palma di Cesnola. Cesnola fought for the 
Union in the American Civil War and was rewarded with the 
consulship of Cyprus, not in those days a diplomatic plum. 
But he found much to interest him on the island, and in the 
years between his appointment in 1865 and his departure in 
1872, he acquired a lifelong passion for and became an 
acknowledged master of the antiquities trade. 

In 1870 Cesnola claimed as his own the 
great discoveries at the site of Golgoi (Athienou), southeast 
of Nicosia. There, an army of local diggers had uncovered a 
row of seventy-two pedestals along the foundation line of 
one of the walls of a temple. A short distance away were the 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV Number 4 


Cesnola's Legacy 

limestone statues that had fallen from the pedestals, 
all sizes and types, some with Assyrian headdress, 
others Egyptian, others wearing wreaths of leaves in 
the Greek style. Cesnola remarked that the statues 
seemed to be grouped according to ethnic type, and 
that most of the heads had been broken from their 
bodies. Cesnola, who went on to become the first 
director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, wrote 
the description of these excavations sometime after 
they had occurred, and his writings are far from the 
careful excavation report one can hope for nowadays. 
Nevertheless, his narrative tells in a general way 
something about the purpose and function of Cyp- 
riot statues. 1 

Another excavator, Cesnola's contemporary and 
fellow diplomat, R. Hamilton Lang, head of the 
British mission at Larnaca, described groupings of 
statues within a sanctuary setting at Idalion (Dhali), 
not far from Golgoi, 2 and it is clear that such statues, 
ranging in size from two feet tall to colossal, were 
offerings to deities. Hundreds of limestone and terra- 
cotta figures, many of them life-size, must have been 
offered in dedication, so many that it sometimes 
became necessary to clear out the old gifts to make 
room for the new. When this happened, the old 
votives were ceremoniously buried in pits (bothroi) 
and in the process of moving, many of the heads 
seem to have become detached from the bodies. 

The beautifully preserved limestone head of a 
bearded man in the North Carolina Museum of Art 
in Raleigh is one such head (figs. 1-5). 3 We do not 
know who it represents, for the question of the iden- 
tity of these votive figures remains unanswered. 
Were they meant to be images of gods, donors, or 
perhaps priests? 

The head in Raleigh represents that of a mature 
man. Fifteen inches high, it must have been broken 
from a slightly over-life-size statue. It has suffered 
small abrasions above the eyes and in the center of 
the forehead, and the nose has been broken off, 
though traces of the nostrils remain. 4 

The man is wearing a wreath composed of large 
bay leaves above berries and ivy leaves. His hair is 
parted in the middle, with a short, wavy fringe over 
the forehead. Individual strands, marked by deep 
grooves, fall to the sides and back. On the sides are 
long, wavy locks, and at the back of the neck the 
hair seems to be gathered toward the center. The 
locks of hair that fall below the wreath are rendered 
in higher relief and greater detail than the hair on the 
crown of the head. 

The man has a broad, low forehead that projects 

Figs. 2-5 

Head of a bearded man (and detail), 
North Carolina Museum of Art. 

somewhat in the profile view, giving the heavy- 
lidded eyes a deep-set look. The thin lips curve 
slightly under a long mustache, its texture suggested 
by long, deep grooves. Shallower grooves mark the 
hair growth on the upper lip and the short hairs 
forming a small triangle below the center of the 
lower lip. The locks of the beard are long and wavy, 
and curl a little at the ends. They are arranged in 
three tiers, the topmost tier of shorter, more tightly 
curled locks appearing only on the sides. The beard 
is deeply undercut to make it stand out from the 
neck, which is smooth and unbroken on the left side 
of the head but has been damaged on the right. 
Traces of red paint remain to indicate the eyebrows 
and the iris of the eyes. 5 The use of red paint for eye- 
brows and iris on the Raleigh head is consistent with 
Greek practice and appears on other Cypriot heads 
of this type. 6 The missing body was probably 
clothed in a Greek costume, a chiton (tunic) and 
himation (cloak), in harmony with the generally 
Hellenic character of the head. For an idea of what it 
might have looked like, one can compare the so- 
called Apollo from Idalion in the British Museum, 


or one of the figures Cesnola found at Golgoi, now 
in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. 7 

The choice of limestone, which is a softer stone 
than marble, was dictated by the scarcity of marble 
on the island of Cyprus. No naturally occurring 
marble exists there, but it was imported to a few 
places, such as Marion (Polis), on the northwest 
coast, where influence from Greece was strong. 
Large-scale sculpture could also be made of terra- 
cotta. A number of life-size clay figures have been 
found in Cypriot sanctuaries, notably at Ayia Irini, 
on the north coast of the island. 8 

The style of carving, a heavy, almost summary, 
modeling of the facial features combined with sim- 
ple linear surface patterns for hair and beard, reflects 
the late archaic and early classical style in Greece. 
Greek influence in Cyprus was present throughout 
the archaic period, when many Greeks settled on the 
island and flourishing kingdoms grew up at such 
places as Salamis, Marion, Paphos, and Kourion. 
Like other ethnic influences on sculpture, the Greek 
style is most evident in headdress and garments. 
Although Cypriot sculpture also exhibits the archaic 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV Number 4 


Cesnola's Legacy 

Figs. 6-7 

Head of a bearded man, The Cyprus 
Museum, Nicosia. Found near Troulli. 

Greek love of linear surface patterns and the animat- 
ing device of the archaic smile, in Cypriot sculpture 
we see little of the intense focus of archaic Greek 
sculptors on the human body as a living, function- 
ing organism. Even when the body is preserved, a 
Cypriot figure in Greek dress is merely a vehicle for 
the distinguishing clothing. 

Comparison with Greek models that are dated 
fairly securely remains the best method of arriving 
at dates for Cypriot sculpture. This is true whether 
the trappings of dress are Greek, Persian, or Egyp- 
tian, for the dominant artistic influence on Cypriot 
sculpture seems to have been Greek — even though 
the spirit that impelled Greek art is missing. By the 
middle of the fifth century B.C., Cypriot sculpture 
shows some awareness of the early classical style, a 
style that is most completely expressed in the sculp- 
ture of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, dated to 
around 460 B.C. The facial expression of the Raleigh 
head, with its faint smile yet almost grave expres- 
sion, suggests a date toward the middle of the fifth 
century B.C. 

Figures in Greek dress have been found all over 
Cyprus, but particularly in the eastern part of the 

island. The location where the head in Raleigh was 
found is not known, but it seems likely that it came 
from this region. The Raleigh head finds a good par- 
allel in a head displayed in the Cyprus Museum in 
Nicosia, found in 1967 at Petres, near Troulli, north 
of the port city of Larnaca, in a small pit or bothros 
along with other fragments of other limestone sculp- 
tures (figs. 6- 10). 9 

The Troulli head also represents a mature man 
wearing a wreath of bay leaves, and he too has 
broad, low eyebrows and heavy-lidded eyes. But 
there are differences as well: the hairline curves more 
at the forehead, the face is longer from eye to beard, 
and the cheekbones are more prominent. In addi- 
tion, the beard is composed of more layers of shorter, 
curlier locks of hair, and the lips curve more strong- 
ly, in more of an archaic smile, which suggests a 
slightly earlier date. 

Three other heads of similar type are in the Lar- 
naca Archaeological Museum. One, probably from 
Arsos, not far from Troulli, provides the closest par- 
allel for the wreath on the head in Raleigh, a wreath 
composed of bay leaves above large berries and ivy 
leaves. 10 The two other male heads, one from Arsos, 


Figs. 8-10 

Head of a bearded man (and details), 
The Cyprus Museum. 

the other from Pergamos in the same district, are 
also close. 11 From the same general area are two of 
the best-known examples of the Greek type, the 
so-called Apollo from Idalion, now in the British 
Museum, and the figure from Golgoi in the Metro- 
politan Museum, both mentioned earlier as exam- 
ples that preserve the body with its Greek garments. 

When Cesnola left Cyprus, he took with him 
most of the vast collection he had amassed and tried 
unsuccessfully to sell to various foreign museums 
including the Louvre, the British Museum, and the 
Hermitage in Leningrad. After long negotiations 
and with the help of his loyal New England friend 
Hiram Hitchcock, he finally sold the collection to 
the new Metropolitan Museum in New York, in 
1872 only three years old, and was soon hired to cat- 
alogue and install his collection on their premises. In 
March 1873 the Cesnola collection opened to rave 
reviews, the sculptures touted as the missing link 
between Egypt and Greece, the great treasures from 
the mysterious East. 13 

Most Cypriot sculpture in the United States in 
collections other than the Metropolitan Museum can 
be traced back to Cesnola. Most are pieces sold by 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin. Volume XIV Number 4 


Cesnola's Legacy 

Fig. II 

Head of a bearded man, Hood 
Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, 
Hanover, New Hampshire. Bequest of 
Emily Howe Hitchcock. 12. 1.324 

him before the great sale to the Metropolitan or are 
items sold as superfluous by the Metropolitan in 
1928. One example is a wreathed head now in the 
Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, the 
bequest of the family of Cesnola's great friend, 
Hiram Hitchcock (fig. 11). Besides the collection at 
the Metropolitan, other collections of Cypriot sculp- 
ture in the United States are in the Museum of Fine 
Arts, Boston, and the John and Mabel Ringling 
Museum in Sarasota, Florida. Major collections of 
Cypriot sculpture are also to be found in the British 
Museum and the Mediterranean Museum in Stock- 
holm, the results of archaeological excavations 
mounted respectively in the late nineteenth and early 
twentieth centuries. Though objects from Cyprus 
can no longer be acquired in quantity by American 
and European museums, many institutions of higher 
learning continue to excavate on the island, adding 
to our corpus of knowledge. 

Diana Buitron-Oliver is Director of Excavations in 
the archaic precinct, Sanctuary of Apollo at Kourion 
in Cyprus. 



1. L. R di Cesnola, Cyprus: its Ancient Cities, Tombs and Temples 
(New York, 1878), 138-46. 

2. R. H. Lang, Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature, id 
series, vol. 1 1 (1878): 36. 

3. The head of a bearded man was in the McKinnon Collection 
(Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, November 5, 1971 , no. 
191, lllus.), and was acquired by the North Carolina Museum 
of Art in 1979 (Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, May 19, 
1979, no. 222, lllus.). I should like to thank Mary Ellen Soles, 
Curator of Ancient Art, North Carolina Museum of Art, for 
suggesting that I publish the head. 

4. The head was examined under ultraviolet light by David 
Goist, Chief Conservator, North Carolina Museum of Art, 
who noted no recent reworking of the stone surface. 

5. A sample of the red pigment was studied under a polarizing- 
light microscope and the red portion judged to be red iron 
oxide. David Goist also detected a yellow fluorescence on the 
lips and leaves of the wreath and suggests that this response 
may be caused by the remnant of an organic color that has 
faded away. 

6. See O. Palagia, "Les techniques de la sculpture grecque sur 
marbre," in Marbres Helleniques (Brussels, 1987), p. 10 with 
note 91. Compare the head in Nicosia. 

7. For the Idalion Apollo, see E. Gjerstad, Swedish Cyprus Expe- 
dition, vol. 4, part 2 (Stockholm, 1948), pi. XVI; and V. 
Tatton-Brown, Ancient Cyprus (London, The British Museum, 
1987), cover. For the Golgoi statue, see Metropolitan Museum 
of Art 74.51.2461. 

8. E. Gjerstad, Swedish Cyprus Expedition, pp. 3-4; and E. 
Sjoqvist, "Die Kultgeschichte eines cyprischen Temenos," 
Archiv fur Religionwissenschafi 30 (1933): 341, figs. 9- 10. 

9. V. Karageorghis, "Chromques des fouilles a Chypre en 1967," 
Bulletin de correspondance hellenique 92 (1968): fig. 25 (and figs. 
26-28 for some of the other sculpture found with the head 
discussed here). The Troulli head was discovered by M. Loul- 
loupis of the Department of Antiquities during land-leveling 
operations (Larnaca District Reports 164-38-2). I am most 
grateful to Mr. Loulloupis for telling me about its discovery 
and for providing the photos of it published here. I thank also 
the Director of Antiquities, Vassos Karageorghis, and P. 
Flourenzos of the Department of Antiquities for information 
regarding the Troulli and Raleigh heads. 

10. Larnaca no. 744, probably from Arsos; V. Karageorghis, 
"Chronique des fouilles a Chypre en 1972," Bulletin de corres- 
pondance hellenique 97 (1973): 623, fig. 48. 

11. The second Arsos head is Larnaca no. 649 found in 1935. The 
head from Pergamos is Larnaca no. 647; V. Karageorghis, 
"Ten Years of Archaeology in Cyprus 1953 -1962," Archdolo- 
gischer Anzeiger (1963): fig. 42; and Karageorghis, "Chroniques 
des fouilles a Chypre en 1967," p. 275, where it is attributed 
to the same hand or workshop as the Troulli head. 

12. Stylistic affinities have been noted between Idalion and Kition 
(Larnaca). The two cities had an economic relationship based 
on the copper industry. Idalion was a processing center, Kition 
was the port. See P. Gaber-Salatan, Regional Styles of Cypriote 
Sculpture (New York, 1986), 51-53. Karageorghis suggests 
that there was a chain of sanctuaries between Idalion and Lysi 
("Chroniques des fouilles a Chypre en 1967," 275), this north- 
ern line forming the wide part of a triangle with its apex at 
Larnaca in the south, and incorporating both Arsos and 

13. E. McFadden, The Glitter and the Gold (New York, 1971), 
150. This book contains a spirited account of Cesnola's life. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV Number 4 

Fig. I 

Aphrodite of Cyrene, North Carolina 
Museum of Art. Purchased with 
funds from the State of North 
Carolina and from the North Carolina 
Art Society (Robert F. Phifer Bequest). 

Tradition and Innovation: A Statue of Aphrodite 

by Mary Ellen Soles 

The Aphrodite of Cyrene in the collection of 
the North Carolina Museum of Art (fig. i) is a deceptively 
simple piece of sculpture. 1 A nude female, she stands with 
her weight on her right leg and her left leg bent with the 
foot drawn slightly back and to the side. Although her arms 
are now missing from just below the shoulder, enough 
remains to indicate that the right arm hung down along the 
side of her body, at least as far as the elbow, and the left was 
held down and slightly extended away from the torso. The 
head, which we shall discuss in detail later, is now separated 
from the body. At the statue's proper right, a dolphin stands 
on its head, resting on an area with sketchy, wavy lines that 
suggest both rocks and the sea. The dolphin's body curves 
up so that its tail, now largely missing, rests against the 
statue's upper right thigh. The dolphin, which serves as a 
functional support bearing the weight of the upper part of 
the statue, and the statue itself stand on a small, roughly 
oval base. 

The statue is identified as Aphrodite because 
in the traditions of Greek art only this goddess was ever 
depicted nude. 2 Men, who exercised and competed in ath- 
letic games in the nude, were often shown thus, or even 
granted a "heroic nudity" in military or political scenes that 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV Number 4 


Tradition and Innovation 

did not warrant undress. But women were almost 
always shown fully clothed, as they would appear in 
daily life. It was not until the fourth century B.C. 
that a statue of a nude woman was created for an 
important public commission, a statue of the god- 
dess Aphrodite by the sculptor Praxiteles for the 
sanctuary at Knidos. The initial furor over this inno- 
vation was superseded by admiration and fame, 
which guaranteed the sanctuary's reputation through- 
out the classical period. After this imprimatur was 
given to the depiction of the nude goddess, the 
sculpture of Aphrodite became a vehicle for Hel- 
lenistic sculptors to experiment with the female 
form. Variations on the theme were numerous, as 
sculptors attempted by sometimes subtle changes to 
create new types of representations. The goddess's 
nudity, however, was never without an implied ex- 
planation. A garment dropped by her side, for 
example, suggested preparation for the bath; a dol- 
phin, as seen in the Aphrodite of Cyrene, alludes to 
her birth from the sea. 

The Raleigh statue takes its full name from a 
statue of similar type that was found in North Africa 
at the site of Cyrene, Shahhat, in modern Libya (fig. 
2). 3 Discovered in December 191 3 after a flash flood 
washed opened a room in the Baths of Trajan in 
Cyrene and now in the Museo Nazionale delle 
Terme, or Terme museum, in Rome, this statue was 
the first example of this particular type to be pub- 
lished, and thus has given its name to subsequently 
identified statues of the same type, such as ours. 

A comparison of the two statues reveals differences 
as well as similarities. The differences are important 
for understanding the relationship between statues 
that both reflect a supposedly identical source of 
inspiration. Their preservation is comparable — with 
only the heads and the arms from below the shoul- 
ders missing — which accentuates their similarities. 
The figures are both youthful and rather slender, but 
the Terme Aphrodite is smaller — only 1.49 meters 
high including the base. The stances are also closely 
approximate with weight-bearing right legs, but the 
left leg of the Raleigh Aphrodite is drawn more to 
the side and back, creating a slightly more open 
pose. Although the positions of the right arm of 
both the Terme and Raleigh statues are analogous, 
unlike the Raleigh Aphrodite the Terme Aphrodite's 
left arm was raised almost to shoulder level and held 
out from the body, and remains of a lock of hair rest 
on the upper arm. Traces of a lock of hair lie on and 
just above the Raleigh Aphrodite's right breast. Both 
statues use a dolphin for a support, but the Terme 

Fig. 2 

Aphrodite of Cyrene, Museo 
Nazionale delle Terme, Rome. 


version adds a fish to its mouth. On the Terme 
statue, draped beside and above the fish is a long 
fringed garment that the goddess has apparently just 

The appearance of the head of the Terme Aphro- 
dite has never been known with certainty, as the 
head was not found and may have been washed away 
by the flood that revealed the statue. In the 1950s, 
the scholar Margarete Bieber proposed that a head 
like one in the Stuttgart Museum (figs. 3-4) 
belonged "to the exquisite Aphrodite of Cyrene, 
which has the pictorial, sensual, and illusionistic 
quality of Alexandrian art." 4 Bieber's arguments for 
selecting this head are based purely on stylistic con- 
siderations and deal with one of the more elusive 
problems confronting those who study later Greek 
art, that is, the nature of Alexandrian art. 

Alexandria, built to the order of Alexander the 
Great in the fourth century B.C., was the capital of 
Egypt under the Ptolemies, Alexander's successors 
in the region. As a prosperous cultural center, it 
attracted poets and men of learning to its famous 
library. Artists, too, came to Alexandria, drawn by 
the promise of commissions arising from the new 
city's need for appropriate decoration. Because artis- 
tic activity in Alexandria occurred on such a large 
scale, it has always seemed probable that some dis- 
tinctive features of style would have emerged. But 
identifying such characteristics has been difficult; 
other than portraits, the extant artistic production 
that can be firmly linked to ancient Alexandria is 
small and has not yielded well-defined, peculiarly 
Alexandrian traits. 5 Perhaps the greatest scholarly 
consensus has come on the supposed Alexandrian 

preference for surfaces that blur the divisions between 
separate features, producing a soft, indistinct quality, 
known by the Italian term sjumato. The head in 
Stuttgart that Bieber links with the Aphrodite of 
Cyrene demonstrates this softening of lines, espe- 
cially in the lips, eyelids, eyebrows, and forehead; its 
facial features flow imperceptibly from one to 

The Raleigh Aphrodite has not previously figured 
in published discussions of the Terme Aphrodite of 
Cyrene. The head of the Raleigh statue is extant, 
joining perfectly at points of contact on the base of 
the neck, so that there can be no doubt of its belong- 
ing to the statue (fig. 5). Although erosion of the 
surface from water and possibly fire has, unfortu- 
nately, rendered the Raleigh head too poorly pre- 
served to be exhibited, its main features are legible, 
and they agree with the Stuttgart head (figs. 6-7). 
The front of the hair is drawn from a center part 
away from the forehead into a knot at the top of the 
head. The rest of the hair is drawn in a thick wavy 
roll to a chignon, bound by a fillet, at the nape of 
the neck. Remains of a thick lock of hair escaping 
from the coiffure can be seen just behind and below 
each ear. The face is a narrow oval with a triangular 
forehead and rounded cheeks, emphasized by an 
elongated jawline. Even in its battered state, the 
Raleigh head shows evidence of the same kind of 
sjumato as the Stuttgart head. Sfumato can be seen in 
the head's subtle suggestion of eyebrows, rather than 
strict delineation, and in the formation of the eyes 
and mouth. The virtual congruity of the Raleigh 
and Stuttgart heads proves that Bieber's selection of 
the Stuttgart head as stylistically appropriate for the 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV Number 4 


Tradition and Innovation 

Fig- 5 

Aphrodite of Cyrene (detail with 
head), North Carolina Museum 
of Art. 

Figs. 6-7 

Head of Aphrodite of Cyrene, North 
Carolina Museum of Art. 


Terme Aphrodite of Cyrene was inspired. Bieber's 
own rationale for a connection of the head with 
Alexandria on the basis of its style alone is less 

The action depicted by both statues, Aphrodite 
emerging from the sea, was a popular theme in 
Greek art from at least the time of the later fourth 
century B.C. Apelles, a renowned painter of the day, 
painted Aphrodite rising from the sea, or Aphrodite 
Anadyomene, for the Temple of Aesclepius on the 
island of Kos. The painting was eventually taken to 
Rome and dedicated by the emperor Augustus in the 
Temple of Julius Caesar. According to the ancient 
author Pliny (Natural History, 35.91), when no one 
could be found capable of repairing some damage to 
the lower half, the damage itself contributed to the 
fame of the piece. 

Although Apelles' painting has not survived, its 
appearance may be reconstructed through contem- 
porary literary descriptions. 6 The lower half of the 
goddess's body was immersed in the sea, but its out- 
line was revealed through the "transparent" waves. 
Aphrodite's upper body rose above the waves, and 
she lifted both hands to her hair to wring out the 
water and arrange her coiffure. This monumental 
painting was obviously the model for many three- 
dimensional representations. 

The popularity of the Aphrodite Anadyomene in 
antiquity is attested in the disproportionately large 
number of such sculpture of all sizes, media, and 
greatly varying qualities. 7 The attempt to recreate 
the effects of painting in another medium perhaps 
explains the so-called Venus Benghasi (fig. 8), a half- 
figure Anadyomene, existing from the waist up. 8 Set 
in a fountain or pool of water, it would have approx- 
imated the effect of the painted Anadyomene. Many 
Anadyomenes have a garment draped around the lower 
body. This drapery may have been intended to func- 
tion like the waves in Apelles' painting, revealing the 
outline of the body through its clinging transpar- 
ency. Unfortunately, the heavy-handed execution of 
the drapery in many of the copies and adaptations 
tends to obscure the relationship of drapery to statue 
in thick, repetitious patterns of folds. 

Not merely an undraped version of the half- 
draped type, the nude Anadyomene is a flatter, more 
unifacial conception. On the basis of representations 
on coins, the nude appears to have been the more 
popular of the two types. 9 The Terme Aphrodite of 
Cyrene is regarded as the best example of all extant 
copies, closest to the "canonical" type with both 
arms raised, the right higher than the left. Although 

Fig. 8 

Venus Benghasi, The University 
Museum, University of Pennsylvania, 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV Number 4 


Tradition and Innovation 

more than one reconstruction of the missing limbs 
of the Raleigh Aphrodite is possible, the right arm 
was probably bent at the elbow with the right hand 
up to the strand of hair falling to her breast. The 
position of the left arm is more problematic. It, too, 
may have been bent at the elbow in order to hold up 
in the air a now-missing lock that fell from the left 
side of the head, the remnants of which, as noted 
above, are visible just behind the left ear. This expla- 
nation seems to be the only one that makes sense of 
this trace of hair. If the left hand hung beside the 
body, with the hand resting palm out on the but- 
tock, the evidence of the lock of hair must be over- 
looked. This latter position, with the arm held close 
to the body, would be an unusual variation, but it 
should be noted that supports, or struts, would 
probably not be necessary in this pose. 

The date of the Terme Aphrodite of Cyrene is 
usually thought to be in the second century after 
Christ, perhaps somewhat later than the building of 
the Baths of Trajan where it was found. The highly 
polished surface, soft modeling, elaborate drapery, 
and the complicated pose of the dolphin suggest a 
date during the reign of the Antonine emperors, in 
the years from 138 to 180 after Christ. The dating of 
the Raleigh Aphrodite is less certain. The drier, 
more taut modeling of the figure, the less polished 
surface, and the simplified arrangement of the dol- 
phin without any drapery point to an earlier time 
than that of the Terme Aphrodite, perhaps during 
the reign of the emperor Augustus (27 b.c.-a.d. 14) 
or his successors, the Julio-Claudian emperors (a.d. 
14-68). The less ornamented accessories and the 
restrained corporeality of the figure accord with the 
taste for classicism in the early first century. 

The indebtedness of both the Terme Aphrodite of 
Cyrene and the Raleigh Aphrodite to a model cre- 
ated in the early Hellenistic period obviously does 
not preclude inventiveness on the part of later sculp- 
tors. Mechanical copying, involving the transfer of 
basic dimensions from a model to a block of stone, 
certainly existed in classical times, 10 but more com- 
mon was the preference for a free-hand quotation of 
a popular type of sculpture. In its duplication of 
form coupled with its change in gesture, the Raleigh 
Aphrodite of Cyrene demonstrates our anonymous 
sculptor's success in creating a new work. 

Mary Ellen Soles is Curator of Ancient Art at the North 
Carolina Museum of Art. 



1. Aphrodite of Cyrene, North Carolina Museum of Art, 
80.9.1/2. Height (from base to the shoulders): 63 in. (160 
cm.) Base: 17X21X4 in. (43.2 x 53.3 X 10.2 cm.) Head now 
separate. Arms from below shoulders and part of dolphin's 
tail missing. Broken and mended at ankles and knees. The 
marble of both head and figure has been identified by Nor- 
man Herz through isotopic analysis as coming from a Turkish 
quarry, either Usak or Mylas. Said to have been found near 
Castellamare di Stabia, Italy. Formerly in the collection of B. 
Feurer, Rome and Geneva. 

2. For the most complete recent discussion of Hellenistic repre- 
sentations of Aphrodite, see D. M. Bnnkerhoff, Hellenistic 
Aphrodites: Studies in their Stylistic Development (Garland, 
1978). Also, J. J. Bernoulli, Aphrodite: Ein Baustein zur 
griechischen Kunstmythologie (Leipzig, 1873); M. E. C. Soles, 
'Aphrodite at Corinth: A Study of the Sculptural Types," 
(Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1976). See also C. C. Vermeule, 
"Aphrodite Unveiled," North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin 
10 (1970): 2-1 1. For a discussion of the goddess's nudity, see 
P. Friedrich, The Meaning of Aphrodite (Chicago, 1978), 

3. E. Paribeni, Le Terme di Diocleziano e il Museo Nazionale 
Romano (Rome, 1953), p. 160, no. 372; L. Curtius, "Die 
Aphrodite von Kyrene," Die Antike 1 (1925): 56-60; O. 
Vasori, Museo Nazionale Romano, pp. 170-76, no. 115. 

4. M. Bieber, The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age (New York, 
1961), p. 98, fig. 393- 

5. J. J. Polhtt notes that "there is relatively little sculpture and 
painting from Hellenistic Egypt, and what there is does not 
suggest that Alexandria diverged in any significant way from 
Hellenistic art elsewhere." (Art in the Hellenistic Age [Cam- 
bridge, 1986], p. 250). 

6. The epigrams referring to the Anadyomene have been collected 
by J. Overbeck, Die Antiken Schriftquellen zur Geschichte der 
Bildenden Kunste bei, den Griechen (Leipzig, 1868), nos. 
1847-63, pp. 349-51. For discussion of the information to be 
garnered from these epigrams, see O. Benndorf, "Bermer- 
kungen zur Griechischen Kunstgeschichte III, Anadyomene 
des Apelles," Athenische Mitteilungen (1876): 50-66; A. 
Rumpf, "Anadyomene," Jahrhuch des deutsches Institut 65-66 
(1950-51): 166 ff. 

7. For lists of extant copies, see Bernoulli, Aphrodite, pp. 
285-90; H. Riemann, Kerameikos II, Die Skulpturen vom 5. 
Jahrhundert his in romische Zeit (Berlin, 1940), pp. 1 15-17, 
nos. 170-72; R. Lullies, Die kauernde Aphrodite (Munich, 
1954), PP- 76 ff. 

8. O. Brendel, "Weiblicher Torso in Oslo," Die Antike 6 (1930): 
52, figs. 5-6; Riemann, Kerameikos II, no. 172, no. 39 in the 
list of half-draped copies; N. Winter, "The Venus Benghasi" 
(M.A. thesis, Bryn Mawr College). 

9. M. Bernhart, Aphrodite auf griechischen Miinzen: eine numis- 
matische Materialsammlung (Munich, 1936), pp. 43-46, nos. 

10. For a recent, stimulating discussion of Roman copies, see B. 
S. Ridgway, Roman Copies of Greek Sculpture: The Problem of 
the Originals (Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1984), with an earlier 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV Number 4 


Fig. i 

Funerary relief of Sextus Maelius 
Stabilio, Vesinia Iucunda, and Sextus 
Maelius Faustus, North Carolina 
Museum of Art. Purchased with 
funds from the State of North Caro- 
lina. 79.1.2 


Social Status, Marriage, and Male Heirs in the Age 
of Augustus: A Roman Funerary Relief 

by Diana E. E. Kleiner 

The handsome funerary relief acquired by 
the North Carolina Museum of Art in 1979 (figs. 1-4) is an 
example of a type of sepulchral commemoration favored 
exclusively by freedmen and freedwomen in Rome in the late 
Republic and the age of Augustus. 1 The relief documents the 
significance of the marriage bond, which enabled a couple to 
produce legitimate children and united them not only while 
alive but in perpetuity. 

Belief in the sanctity of nonadulterous 
marriage, especially for women, and the importance of the 
production of male heirs was of significance not only to 
ex-slaves but also to Rome's first emperor, Augustus, who 
promulgated laws regulating marriage and adultery and 
encouraging the procreation of children among the aristoc- 
racy and liberti. Augustus's moral laws and high regard for 
male children created a social milieu that encouraged the 
commission of family-group portraits by freedmen. 2 

Made of Luna marble and measuring 
27V2 x 67 x 15 inches (69.9 x 170.2 x 38.1 centimeters), the 
North Carolina Museum of Art relief was carved to fit as a 
masonry block into the fabric of a stone tomb probably 
erected, like others of its type, on one of the major thor- 
oughfares outside Rome. The horizontal frame encloses the 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV Number 4 

2 I 

Figs. 2-3 

Funerary relief (details), North 
Carolina Museum of Art. 

sculptured portraits of a man, a woman, and a youth. 
The subjects, who appear very much alive, seem to 
gaze out of a large picture window in the facade of 
their last resting place. 

The artist or artists who executed this relief paid 
special attention to the physiognomies, hairstyles, 
garments, and gestures of the figures, and to the 
inscription below their portraits, which allows the 
relief to be "read" by passersby. The inscription 
gives the names of the tomb's three intended occu- 
pants: at left, Sextus Maelius Stabilio, the libertus of 
Sextus Maelius; at right, Sextus Maelius Faustus, the 
libertus of the same Sextus Maelius; and between 
them, Vesinia Iucunda, a liberta freed by a woman of 
the gens, or family, Vesinius. 3 Thus, the two men are 
conliberti (freedmen of the same patron) and the 
woman is the freedwoman of a Roman matron 
named Vesinia. 4 

The pose of the figures indicates that Sextus 
Maelius Stabilio was married to Vesinia Iucunda: 
they clasp right hands in the conventional dextrarum 
iunctio — a sign that the marriage vows have been 
taken. 5 Moreover, Iucunda wears a bride's veil and 
rests her chin in her left hand, the modest gesture of 

Social Status, Marriage, and Male Heirs in the Age of Augustus 

pudicitia characteristic of the bride. 6 

That Sextus Maelius Faustus is younger than the 
happily married pair is also apparent. His face is soft 
and smooth, lacking the forehead furrows and deep 
creases framing the mouth of Stabilio. Although it is 
tempting to identify Faustus as the son of Stabilio 
and Iucunda, a male child born to a freed couple 
would be designated in the epitaph as filius rather 
than as libertus. But if Faustus was born to Stabilio 
and Iucunda while they were still slaves, the inscrip- 
tion is consistent with an identification of Faustus as 
both the conlibertus and son of Stabilio. 

Stabilio has strong features, highlighted by 
prominent cheekbones and a powerful chin. He has a 
broad cranium and a face that tapers downward, a 
stylistic characteristic of the period that he shares 
with the emperor Augustus and male members of 
the Julio-Claudian court. He has almond-shaped 
eyes, straight brows, an aquiline nose, and rounded 
lips. His features are framed by a hairstyle that 
recedes at the temples and is arranged in comma- 
shaped locks over the forehead. His coiffure resem- 
bles those worn by other freedmen in funerary reliefs 
dated between the end of the first century B.C. and 


the opening years of the first century after Christ, 
e.g., Publius Furius and Gaius Sulpicius in a relief 
now in the Vatican Museums. This hairstyle is sim- 
ilar to the hairstyles of Augustus and other members 
of the imperial circle. 7 Stabilio's forehead is fur- 
rowed, and there are creases next to his nose. He is 
depicted almost to the waist and is clothed in a tunic 
and toga, from which his right hand emerges. He is 
turned slightly toward his left to face Iucunda and 
Faustus. In fact, the figure of Iucunda is carefully 
framed by husband and son: Faustus is turned to his 
right, toward his parents. 

Faustus has an oval face and the same almond- 
shaped eyes, straight brows, aquiline nose, and 
rounded lips as Stabilio. The resemblance of the 
youth to the elder male corroborates the probable 
father-son relationship. Faustus's hair is combed in a 
full cap carefully arranged in comma-shaped locks 
over his forehead. His coiffure is like that of Augus- 
tus and young male members of the imperial court, 
including Gaius and Lucius Caesar. This style is fre- 
quently found in portraits of boys on freedmen 
funerary reliefs of the late first century B.C. and early 
first century after Christ. 8 Faustus, too, wears a 
tunic and toga, and he grasps the upper edge of his 
toga with his left hand, a conventional gesture in 
freedmen funerary portraits. Although the size of 
Faustus's body and hand are comparable to those of 
Stabilio, Faustus's head has the smaller proportions 
of a boy. This suggests that the family purchased a 
less-expensive ready-made relief intended to com- 
memorate three adults and had an artist who special- 
ized in portraits adapt it to their needs by adding the 
three heads. That the heads were worked separately 
from the bodies is further indicated by a comparison 
of the heads with the more summarily worked drap- 
ery below. The heads are in higher relief and more 
plastically modeled. 

Careful study of surviving late Republican and 
Augustan freedmen funerary reliefs from Rome indi- 
cates that such a workshop practice was not without 
parallel. An early Augustan relief from the Via 
Appia and now in the Museo Nazionale delle Terme 
was blocked out with four figures, of which only 
three, a woman and two men, were carved. 9 The 
mid-Augustan relief of C. Rabirius Hermodorus 
and Rabiria Demaris, also from the Via Appia and 
now in the Terme museum, was recarved in the 
Flavian period to incorporate the portrait of Usia 
Prima, a priestess of the goddess Isis. 10 

Although some sepulchral commissions in the 
form of altars were custom-made, many were blocked 

out ahead of time in a workshop. The simplest type 
of altar, with a portrait of the deceased in a pediment 
and an inscription plaque below, was undoubtedly 
available for quick purchase. All that needed to be 
added was the deceased's facial features and the per- 
sonalized epitaph. Some portraits and epitaphs were 
carefully conceived, but others were hurriedly pre- 
pared, resulting in little correspondence between the 
deceased and the portrait in age and personal char- 
acteristics. 11 For example, although Iulia Synegoris, 
who lived during the reign of the emperor Trajan, 
was only nineteen when she died, the altar commis- 
sioned by her father and now in the Museo Capi- 
tolino represents her with lines around her eyes, as 
well as at her nostrils, mouth, and neck, suggesting 
impending middle age. Hers may well be a stock 
portrait on a preprepared altar rather than an actual 
likeness. 12 

Roman sarcophagi, the favored burial containers 
for both aristocrats and freedmen from the mid- 
second to the fourth centuries after Christ 13 were 
often carved in advance with full narrative or mytho- 
logical scenes, but the protagonists' heads were left 
unfinished so that they could thus be added by a 
special portrait artist upon purchase. There is con- 
siderable evidence for this practice. One of the most 
outstanding examples is a sarcophagus found in 
Portonaccio on the Via Tiburtina. This sarcophagus 
was probably made between a.d. 180 and 190 for a 
leading military man of the day who participated in 
the German and Sarmatian wars. The battle scene on 
the main body of the sarcophagus is complemented 
by vignettes from the life of the deceased on the lid, 
including one in which a general grants clemency to 
his enemies. The other two are of a more private 
nature, depicting the general in a dextrarum iunctio 
with his wife and the birth of the couple's first child. 
But the facial features of the main protagonist and 
his wife were never added, indicating either that this 
was a workshop piece that was never purchased, or 
that it was bought in haste and used unfinished for 
the speedy burial of one of Marcus Aurelius's gener- 
als killed on the front. 14 

The central figure in the North Carolina Museum 
of Art relief is Vesinia Iucunda. She is turned to her 
right toward her husband and grasps his right hand 
with her right hand. She wears a tunic and palla, the 
upper edge of which is draped over her head like a 
veil. She leans her chin on the index finger of her left 
hand and curls the three other fingers around the 
edge of the veil. She has a fleshy face and the almond- 
shaped eyes, straight brows, and aquiline nose of her 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV Number 4 


Social Status, Marriage, and Male Heirs in the Age of Augustus 

Fig- 4 

Funerary relief (detail), North 
Carolina Museum of Art. 

companions, but thinner lips. That she is a woman 
of middle age is indicated by the bags under her eyes 
and the deep creases that mar her cheeks. Her hair is 
parted in the center and brushed in waves above her 
ears, a coiffure reminiscent of Greek goddesses and 
popularized by Augustan court females in the late 
first century B.C. and early first century after Christ. 15 

Stabilio and Iucunda are united by their right 
hands and also turned slightly toward each other. 
Their pose contrasts with the poses of husbands and 
wives in other sepulchral reliefs, which are strictly 
frontal and exhibit no physical contact. The empha- 
sis on physical as well as marital or familial bonds in 
sepulchral reliefs appears to be an Augustan phe- 
nomenon. It may have been inspired by the increased 
physical rapport among figures in public-relief sculp- 
ture, e.g., those on the north and south friezes of 
the Ara Pacis Augustae, discussed below. 

The protagonists' coiffures, physiognomies, pos- 
tures, and gestures, as well as the use of Luna mar- 
ble, which began to be used for such sepulchral 
commemorations in the Augustan period, 16 suggest 
a mid-Augustan date for the North Carolina 
Museum of Art relief, i.e., after the Ara Pacis of 13 
B.C. or in the very first years of the first century 
after Christ. 

Of the roughly one hundred extant group por- 

traits of freedmen that decorated the facades of 
tombs just outside Rome in the late Republic and in 
the age of Augustus, fifteen include depictions of 
dextrarum iunctio. Of these, at least fourteen (e.g., 
two reliefs in the Museo Nazionale delle Terme [figs. 
5 and 6]), can be dated to the Augustan period, 
which suggests that Augustus's marriage legislation 
served, at least in large part, as the impetus for such 
visual images. 17 

The sole exception to the Augustan dating is a 
little-known anepigraphic relief in the Antiquarium 
Comunale on the Caelian Hill in Rome (fig. 7). 18 
This horizontal relief, which comprises a similar 
three-figure group of a married pair united by a 
dextrarum iunctio and their son, is fashioned out of 
limestone, which tended to be popular for freedmen 
funerary reliefs in the late Republic rather than in the 
Augustan period. 19 Another cue for a pre-Augustan 
dating is the woman's coiffure, a massive roll of hair 
tied in a knot and piled on top of the head. This 
hairstyle, which has been called a Scheitelknotenfrisur, 
has been dated by Hans Peter L'Organge to circa 
90—60 B.C. 20 A similar coiffure is worn by two 
women in funerary reliefs now in the Conservatori 
and Terme museums, which date to 75-50 B.C., 21 
the probable date for the Antiquarium Comunale 
relief as well. 

The dextrarum iunctio motif has precedent in earlier 
Greek and Etruscan art as a symbol of leave taking, 
reunion, and marriage, and its use in the Antiquar- 
ium Comunale relief probably owes to such earlier 
prototypes. 22 Its appeal for Augustan artists, how- 
ever, was its particular suitability to contemporary 
messages about marriage and fidelity, and they began 
including it regularly in scenes that were meant to 
underscore family unity. 

Although the dextrarum iunctio appears to have 
been used in Augustan times to connote marriage, 
the depiction of husband and wife in such a pose 
appears not to be an illustration of the actual mar- 
riage ceremony. Roman girls were married as young 
as ten and at least half were affianced by the age of 
fifteen. 23 In the North Carolina Museum of Art 
relief, even though Iucunda still wears the ring of her 
betrothal on the traditional finger of her left hand, 
her middle-aged features indicate that the actual 
marriage occurred long ago. 

Aristocratic Roman marriage ceremonies consisted 
of much more than the joining of the right hands. 
The bride's hair was carefully dressed in a plaited 
style, and she participated in a ceremony that in- 
cluded a sacrifice, the consumption of a celebratory 


F«g- 5 

Funerary relief with dextrarum iunctio, 
Museo Nazionale delle Terme, Rome, 
InstNegRom 6538. 

Fig. 6 

Funerary relief with dextrarum iunctio, 
Museo Nazionale delle Terme, Rome, 
D. E. E. and F. S. Kleiner, neg. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV Number 4 


Social Status, Marriage, and Male Heirs in the Age of Augustus 

Fig. 7 

Funerary relief of a married couple 
and their son, Antiquarium 
Comunale, Rome, museum 

cake, and a bridal procession to her new husband's 
house. In this procession, the bride was accompa- 
nied not only by family and friends but also by three 
boys, two to lend support, and the other to lead the 
way with a flaming torch. Also present was a catnil- 
lus, who bore a container filled with the bride's pos- 
sessions and toys for her future children. The bride 
carried a distaff and a spindle with wool. As she was 
carried over the threshold by pronubi (men who had 
been married only once), she wound the wool on 
the doorpost of her husband's house. One of the 
Roman woman's outstanding virtues was her devo- 
tion to the making of wool, which stood for her 
dedication to domestic lite. -4 The festivities in the 
house included the obligatory purification of the 
bride, who touched fire and water; the washing of 
the couple's feet; the bride's salutation of her hus- 
band; the transference of the keys to the house to the 
bride; and the marriage repast for relatives and 
friends, who rejoiced with festive songs. The cele- 
bration culminated in the placement by pronubae 
(women who had been married only once) of the 
bride on the marriage bed, which stood in the atrium 
of the house and was elaborately ornamented with 
flowers. At this time, a pronuba performed the dex- 
trarum iunctio by placing the bride's right hand in that 
of her husband. 

The bride's preparation for the most important 
day in her life is recorded in such well-known works 

of Roman art as the Aldobrandini Wedding fresco in 
the Vatican Museums and the procession and sacri- 
fice in second-century sarcophagi in the Vatican and 
elsewhere, 25 but most representations of husband 
and wife allude to their union in a more subtle way 
The dextrarum iunctio between husband and wife 
came to symbolize the marital bond that was the 
outcome of the marriage ceremony, and children 
resulting from the marriage are depicted beside their 
parents. Since freedmen probably did not participate 
in elaborate marriage ceremonies like the one de- 
scribed above, the use of the dextrarum iunctio as a 
shorthand reference to their union was especially 
appropriate. While five of the fourteen Augustan 
funerary reliefs of freedmen discussed above depict 
the married pair alone, nine others depict the couple 
in company with conliberti, possibly sisters or broth- 
ers, 26 and especially with their children. 27 The famil- 
ial character of such scenes underscores not only the 
unbroken bonds between spouses, but also those 
with other family members, especially offspring. 

The North Carolina Museum of Art relief is thus 
an example of the taste among freedmen for group 
portraits of happily married couples, which illus- 
trates the increased significance of marriage in the 
age of Augustus. Augustus's moral legislation not 
only gave the state jurisdiction over adultery and 
divorce, but also focused on the fidelity of a woman 
to her spouse by indicating that the ideal woman 


married only one time and honored the marriage 
bond (univira), unless she was widowed, in which 
case she was required to remarry. 

In general, Roman marriage was a somewhat in- 
formal affair; consenting individuals qualified as legal 
partners as long as they had the agreement of their 
father or grandfather (patria potestas). But marriage 
did have juridical consequences, especially with 
regard to status for citizenship and inheritance. Slaves 
were sometimes allowed to marry, but these unions 
were considered quasi-marriages (contubernia) and 
participants were often not recognized by their new 
status as husbands and wives. 29 Thus, marriage was 
a matter of special importance to freedmen. The 
depiction of the dextrarum iunctio in sepulchral por- 
traits of freedman represents the importance of mar- 
riage to freedmen and also expresses the belief that 
the union formed in life would not be broken 
in death. 30 

The major reason for marriage in Roman times 
was the production of legitimate children, especially 
male children who could serve as heirs. Although 
the Romans practiced infanticide, especially for girls, 
and indeed the very foundation of Rome was attrib- 
uted by legend to Romulus and Remus, abandoned 
children who were suckled by a she-wolf and raised 
by a shepherd and his wife, children began to take 
on increased importance under Augustus. 31 Prior to 
the Augustan period, children were not thought to 
be a worthy subject for public or private art because 
they were not considered particularly important. 
Augustus began his rise to power when he himself 
was still a youth, however, and his youthfulness 
became a significant part of his political ideology. 32 
His marriage legislation rewarded aristocratic women 
who had three or more children (and imposed some 
inheritance restrictions on those who had no chil- 
dren), and freed women who had at least four 

Augustus's penchant for youth is evident in his 
portraits, which emphasize his smooth skin, clear 
eyes, and tousled hair, both when he was in his 
twenties and even in his sixties. Augustus, the eter- 
nal youth, also had a penchant for commissioning 
portraits of his grandsons and heirs, Gaius and 
Lucius Caesar, from their infancy on, either in com- 
pany with the emperor himself or with their mother, 
Julia, Augustus's only child. 33 

Nowhere is Augustus's emphasis on children more 
apparent than in the sculptural decoration of the Ara 
Pacis Augustae (13-9 B.C.), dedicated by the Senate 
to celebrate Augustus's return from Gaul and Spain 

and commemorating his bestowal of the blessings of 
peace on Rome and the empire. 34 The great friezes 
on the north and south sides of the monument, 
which depict the procession of 13 B.C. in honor of 
the laying of the monument's foundation stone, in- 
corporate portraits of Augustus, Marcus Agrippa, 
Livia, Julia, and several male and female children. 
These are complemented by depictions of the infants 
Romulus and Remus being suckled by the she-wolf 
in a relief panel on the northwest side, and of two 
bouncing babies on the lap of a matronly female 
figure usually identified as Tellus (Mother Earth) on 
the southeast. On the southwest side, Aeneas is 
accompanied by his son lulus Ascanius. Thus, the 
monument depicts the past, present, and future of 
Rome by its male children, be they historical, mytho- 
logical, or legendary. The children included on this 
monument are an allusion to Augustus's dynastic 
aspirations for Gaius and Lucius Caesar, and they 
illustrate his moral objectives for both his own fam- 
ily and those of the Roman elite. 35 

Thus, the funerary relief in the North Carolina 
Museum of Art is a microcosm of family values in 
the age of Augustus, both of the imperial circle and 
the aristocracy, and of freedmen. The relief pro- 
claims the freedman's pride in the legal marriage that 
he was allowed only upon manumission from slavery 
and also his pride in his status as a parent (his new 
position as a freedman meant a better life for his 
son). 36 It attests to the indivisibility of marriage and 
familial bonds formed while still in slavery, retained 
thereafter, and lasting in perpetuity At the same 
time, the depiction of a married couple and their 
child in this privately commissioned sepulchral 
group portrait of freedmen reflects the moral regula- 
tions and familial responsibilities that Augustus 
attempted to impose on both the nobility and the 
freed class in Rome. 

Diana E. E. Kleiner is Professor of Art History and 
Classics at Yale University. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV Number 4 


Social Status, Marriage, and Male Heirs in the Age of Augustus 


I thank Mary Ellen Soles for introducing me to this interesting 
Roman funerary relief by inviting me to publish it in the North 
Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin and for supplying both basic 
information and excellent photographs. I am also grateful to Fred 
S. Kleiner and Gordon Williams for reading the manuscript and 
offering helpful comments and criticism. 

1. The Museum purchased the funerary relief from a dealer who 
acquired it from a Swiss private collection, where it had been 
for over fifteen years. The provenance is unknown. 

2. Studies of freedmen funerary reliefs have been published by 
E. K. Gazda, "Etruscan Inflence in the Funerary Reliefs of 
Late Republican Rome: A Study of Roman Vernacular Por- 
traiture," Ausstieg and Niedergang der romische Welt i, 4 (1973): 
855-70; P. Zanker, "Grabreliefs romischer Freigelassener," 
Jahrbuch des k. deutschen archaologischen Instituts 90 (1975): 
267-315; H. G. Frenz, Untersuchungen zu den friihen rbmischen 
Grabreliefs (Frankfurt am Main, 1977); and D. E. E. Kleiner, 
Roman Group Portraiture: The Funerary Reliefs of the Late 
Republic and Early Empire (New York and London, 1977). 

3. The full inscription reads: 


4. For the relationship among such figures on Roman funerary 
reliefs, see Kleiner, Roman Group Portraiture, 22-46. 

5. For the dextrarum iunctio in Roman art, see B. Kotting, "Dex- 
trarum iunctio," Reallexicon fiir Antike und Christentum 3 (Stutt- 
gart, 1957): 881-88; L. Reekmans, "La dextrarum iunctio dans 
l'iconographie romaine et paleochretienne," Bulletin de I'lnsti- 
tut Historique Beige de Rome 31 (1958): 23-95; L. Reekmans, 
"Dextrarum iunctio," Enciclopedia dell'arte antica, classica e orien- 
tate 3 (Rome, i960): 82-85; Kleiner, Roman Group Portraiture, 
24-25; D. E. E. Kleiner, "A Portrait Relief of D. Apuleius 
Carpus and Apuleia Rufina in the Villa Wolkonsky," Archeolo- 
gia Classica 30 (1978): 246-51; D. E. E. Kleiner and F S. 
Kleiner, "The Apotheosis of Antoninus and Faustina," Atti 
delta Pontificia Accademia Romana di Archeologia , Rendiconti 
51-52 (1978-80): 389-400; and G. Davies, "The Significance 
of the Handshake Motif in Classical Funerary Art," American 
Journal of Archaeology 89 (1985): 627-53. 

6. For the pudicitia pose, see M. Collignon, Les staties funeraires 
dans Van grec (Paris, 191 1) 291 ff. ; G. Radke, "Pudicitia," 
Pauly-Wissowa, Real-Encyclopadie der klassischen Altertumswis- 
senschaft 23, 1 (1959): 1942-45; W. Kohler, "Pudicitia," Enci- 
clopedia dell'arte antica, classica e orientate 6 (1965): 539-40; M. 
Bieber, "Roman Men in Greek Himation (Roman Palliati): A 
Contribution to the History of Copying," Proceedings of the 
American Philosophical Society 103 (1959): 374-417; and 
Kleiner, Roman Group Portraiture, 25, 162-64. 

7. Kleiner, Roman Group Portraiture, pp. 126-27, cat. no. 89. 

8. Ibid., cat. nos. 55, 67, 68, and 69. 

9. Ibid., cat. no. 50. 

10. Ibid., cat. no. 63. 

11. D. E. E. Kleiner, Roman Imperial Funerary Altars with Portraits 
(Rome, 1987), 29. 

12. Ibid., pp. 29, 197-98, cat. no. 70, pis. XL. 3, XLT.l. 

13. Freedmen continued to commission altars, but they turned 
increasingly to larger coffins that afforded a more extensive 
field for decoration and accommodated the change in reli- 
gious practice from cremation to inhumation. Most scholars 
have suggested that the majority of Roman sarcophagi housed 
the remains of the nobility, but as I have tried to demonstrate 
elsewhere, such monuments were also commissioned by 
freedmen, possibly in much larger numbers than has hitherto 
been thought. See Kleiner, Roman Imperial Funerary Altars, p. 
78, and especially D. E. E. Kleiner, "Roman Funerary Art 
and Architecture: Observations on the Significance of Recent 
Studies," Journal of Roman Archaeology 1 (1988): 118. 

14. P. G. Hamberg, Studies in Roman Imperial Art (Copenhagen, 
1945), 176-80. A. Giuliano, ed., Museo Nazionale Romano, le 
sculture 1, 8 (Rome, 1985), 177-88, no. IV 4 (L. Musso). 

15. Kleiner, Roman Group Portraiture, 127-41. 

16. Ibid., 72-75. D. E. E. Kleiner and F. S. Kleiner, "A Heroic 
Funerary Relief on the Via Appia," Archaologischer Anzeiger 
(1975): 257-59. 

17. Ibid., cat. nos. 13, 18, 28, 31, 34, 60 (fig. 5), 68, 80 (fig. 6), 
81, 85, 87, 90, 92. 

18. The relief (inv. 7494) is now in the Antiquanum Comunale 
on the Caelian Hill. Its dimensions are: 1.40 m. X0.64 m. X 
0.40 cm. It was published and illustrated for the first time by 
Zanker, "Grabreliefs romischer Freigelassener," p. 288, fig. 
20. See also Frenz, Untersuchungen zu den friihen romischen 
Grabreliefs, 19-20, 121, 237. 

19. Kleiner, Roman Group Portraiture, 67-70. 

20. Ibid., 129-31. 

21. Ibid., pp. 129-31, 204-5, 2 43i cat - nos - 1 S an d 83. 

22. Davies, "Handshake Motif," 627-35. 

23. M. K. Hopkins, "The Age of Roman Girls at Marriage," Pop- 
ulation Studies 18 (1965): 309-27, esp. 315. M. Durry, "Le 
manage des filles impuberes dans la Rome antique," Revue 
Internationale des droits de l'antiquite, ser. 3, 2 (1955): 263-73; 
M. Durry, "Le mariage des filles impuberes a Rome," Revue 
des etudes latines 47 (1969): 17-25. A. del Castillo, "Sobre la 
controversia entre matrimonio romano y pubertad femenina," 
Rurius 4 (1977): 195-201. 

24. While Augustus's adopted sons, Gaius and Lucius Caesar, 
were trained in the business of government, his daughter and 
granddaughters were taught to spin and weave. Suetonius, 
Augustus, 64. 

25. For the Aldobrandini Wedding fresco, see B. Nogara, Le 
nozze Aldobrandini e paesaggi con scene dell'Odissea e le aim 
pitture murali antiche conservate nella Biblioteca Vaticana e nei 
Musei Pontifici (Milan, 1917); M. Borda, La pittura romana 
(Milan, 1958), 204 ff. ; and W Helbig, Fiihrer durch die hof- 
fentlichen Sammlungen klassischer Altertumer in Rom A I, 360-66, 
no. 466 (B. Andreae). For marriage sarcophagi, see A. Ross- 
bach, Romische Hochzeits-und Ehrendenkmaler (Leipzig, 1 871); 
K. Fittschen, "Hochzeitsarkophag San Lorenzo," Archaolo- 
gischer Anzeiger (1971): 117- 19; S. Wood, "Alcestis on Roman 
Sarcophagi," American Journal of Archaeology 82 (1978): 
499-510; N. Kampen, "Biographical Narration and Roman 
Funerary Art," American Journal of Archaeology 85 (198 1): 
47-58; and G. Koch and H. Sichtermann, Romische Sarkophage 


(Munich, 1982): 97-106. For the Roman marriage ceremony, 
see J. Marquardt and A. Mau, Priuatleben der Rbmer 2 (1886), 
39 ff. ; H. Bliimner, Die romischen Privataltertumer (Munich, 
191 1), 345 ff. ; Pauly-Wissowa, Real-Encyclopddie der klassischen 
Altertumswissenschaft 14, 2, cols. 2259-86 (Kunkel); G. Wil- 
liams, "Some Aspects of Roman Marriage Ceremonies and 
Ideals," Journal of Roman Studies 48 (1958): 16-29. 

26. Kleiner, Roman Group Portraiture, cat. nos. 60, 80, 87. 

27. Ibid., cat. nos. 65, 68, 81, 85, 90, 92. 

28. The Lex Julia de maritandis ordinibus was legislated in 18 B.C. 
and amended in a.d. 9 by the Lex Papia Poppaea. Nonethe- 
less, some scholars have suggested that Augustus attempted 
to introduce marriage legislation as early as 28 or 27 B.C., 
although it appears to have been withdrawn due to strong 
opposition. For Augustus's marriage legislation, see most 
recently R. I. Frank, 'Augustus' Legislation on Marriage and 
Children," California Studies in Classical Antiquity 8 (1975): 
41-52; R Csillag, The Augustan Laws on Family Relations 
(Budapest, 1976); L. Raditsa, 'Augustus' Legislation Concern- 
ing Marriage, Procreation, Love Affairs and Adultery," 
Ausstieg und Niedergang der romische Welt 2, 13 (1980): 278-339, 
esp. 295-305 for the controversy over the dating of the legis- 
lation; and S. Treggian, "Digna condicio: Betrothals in the 
Roman Upper Class," Echos du monde classique. Classical Views 
28 (1984): 419-51. E. Badian, "A Phantom Marriage Law," 
Philologus 129 (1985): 82-98, most recently argues against the 
introduction of marriage legislation by Augustus in 28-27 


29. For contubernia, see T. Frank, "Race Mixture in the Roman 
Empire," American Historical Review 21 (1916): 697; P. E. 
Corbett, The Roman Law of Marriage (Oxford, 1930); S. 
Treggiari, Roman Freedmen during the Late Republic (Oxford, 
1969), 209; B. M. Rawson, "Roman Concubinage and other 
de facto marriages," Transactions of the American Philological 
Association 104 (1974): 279-305; S. Treggiari, "Contubernales 
in CIL 6," Phoenix 35 (1981): 42-69; and R R. C. Weaver, 
"The Status of Children in Mixed Marriages," in The Family 
in Ancient Rome, New Perspectives, edited by B. M. Rawson 
(Ithaca, 1986), 145-47. 

30. Kleiner, "D. Apuleius Carpus and Apuleia Rufina," 246-51; 
Kleiner and Kleiner, "Apotheosis of Antonius and Faustina," 
389-400; Davies, "Handshake Motif," 632-35; Williams, 
"Aspects of Roman Marriage Ceremonies," 25. 

31. For the abandonment of children in antiquity and later, see 
W. V. Harris, "The Theoretical Possibility of Extensive Infan- 
ticide in the Graeco-Roman World," Classical Outlook 32 
(1982): 114-16; and J. Boswell, The Kindness of Strangers: The 
Abandonment of Children in Western Europe from Late Antiquity 
to the Renaissance (New York, 1988), with an earlier bibliogra- 
phy. Little has been written on children in Roman society or 
Roman art. Although a few scholars have focused specifically 
on children, e.g., M. Manson, "The Emergence of the Small 
Child in Rome (Third Century b.c. — First Century a.d.)," 
History of Education 12 (1983): 149-59, and B. M. Rawson, 
"Children in the Roman Familial The Family in Ancient Rome, 
New Perspectives, edited by B. M. Rawson (Ithaca, 1986), 
170-200, others have discussed them in the context of the 
family, of Roman law, etc. See, e.g., S. Bertman, The Conflict 
of Generations in Ancient Greece and Rome (Amsterdam, 1976), 

and B. M. Rawson, "The Roman Family," in The Family in 
Ancient Rome, 1-57. I am presently preparing a book on the 
representation ot children in Roman art entitled Princes, Bar- 
barians, and Slaves: Children in Roman Art. 

32. D. E. E. Kleiner, "Private Portraiture in the Age of Augustus," The 
Age of Augustus, edited by R. Winkes (Providence and Louvain, 

1986) , 1 12- 16. 

33. D. E. E. Kleiner, "The Great Friezes of the Ara Pacis Augus- 
tae: Greek Sources, Roman Derivatives and Augustan Social 
Policy," Melanges de I'Ecole francaise de Rome, Antiquite 90 
(1978): 772-74. Kleiner, "Private Portraiture," 116- 17. J. 
Pollini, The Portraiture of Gaius and Lucius Caesar (New York, 

1987) ; R Zanker, The Power oj Images in the Age of Augustus 
(Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1988), 215-23. 

34. The bibliography on the Ara Pacis Augustae is vast and con- 
tinues to grow. See most recently A. Borbein, "Die Ara Pacis 
Augustae: Geschichthche Wirklichkeit und Programm," Jahr- 
buch des k. deutschen archaologischen Instituts 90 (1975): 242-66; 
J. Pollini, "Studies in Augustan 'Historical' Reliefs" (Ph.D. 
diss., University of California at Berkeley, 1978), 75-172; 
Kleiner, "Great Friezes of the Ara Pacis Augustae," 753-85; 
M. Torelli, Typology and Structure of Roman Historical Reliefs 
(Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1982), 27-61; E. Buchner, Das 
Sonnenuhr des Augustus (Mainz am Rhein, 1982); E. La Rocca, 
Ara Pacis Augustae (Rome, 1983); E. Simon, Augustus, Kunst 
und Leben in Rom urn die Zeitenwende (Munich, 1986), 26-46; 
G. Koeppel, "Die histonschen Reliefs der romischen Kaiser- 
zeit V. Ara Pacis Augustae Teil I," Bonner Jahrbikher 187 
(1987): 101-57; and R Zanker, Power of Images, 117, 120-23, 
125, 144, 158-60, 172, 175-76, 179-83, 189, 198, 203—4, 
218, 252-53, 255, 276, 287, 312, 315. 

35. Kleiner, "Great Friezes of the Ara Pacis Augustae," 772-76. 

36. H. Wrede, Consecratio in Forman Deorum: Vergbttliche Privat- 
personen in der romischen Kaiserzeit (Mainz am Rhein, 198 1), 
108-9. Kleiner, Roman Imperial Funerary Altars, 87-88. D. E. 
E. Kleiner, "Women and Family Life on Roman Imperial 
Funerary Altars," Latomus 46 (1987): 552-53. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin. Volume XIV Number 4 


Fig. i 

Emperor Caracalla in the guise of 
Helios, North Carolina Museum of 
Art. Purchased with funds from the 
North Carolina Art Society (Robert 
F. Phifer Bequest). 84.1 


The Rise of the Severan Dynasty in the East: Young 
Caracalla, about the Year 205, as Helios-Sol 

by Cornelius C. Vermeule 

Prologue: The Roman Imperial Crisis of 192 to 200 

The Mediterranean world from Spain to 
Mesopotamia, the Roman Empire from Britain to the 
Sudan, was thrown into a year of imperial turmoil by the 
murder of Commodus on the last night of a.d. 192. The 
good old Senator Pertinax was proclaimed emperor, chiefly 
by senior magistrates and the Senate, but his stern, some- 
times tactless policies led to his assassination after a few 
months. The Praetorian Guard, true source of power in 
Rome, put the empire up for sale to the Croesus who would 
give them the largest number of golden aurei per soldier. The 
greedy winner was a foolish old official named Didius 
Julianus, who paid the price and made his wife and daughter 
empresses on the new issues of coinage from the mint of 
Rome. The tough legions guarding the frontiers along the 
Germanic and Balkan northeast, in Syria near the western 
limits of Parthian power, and on the Antonine and Hadrianic 
walls in Britain rose up in disgust, proclaimed their three 
governors or generals emperors, and made the same march- 
ing moves on Rome that had followed bad Nero's death in 68 
and stern old Galba's murder in 69. 

The winner of Rome, the prize of the year 
193, was the northern commander of the toughest soldiers 
closest to Italy, Lucius Septimius Severus from Lepcis Magna 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV Number 4 


The Rise of the Severan Dynasty in the East 

in North Africa. As a rising officer and magistrate 
with good connections, Septimius Severus had mar- 
ried a Syrian lady of Hellenistic royal stock, Julia 
Domna, and they had two very young sons, Cara- 
calla (born 1 88) and Geta (born 189). On taking 
power in Rome, Septimius Severus shipped the prae- 
torians overseas, organized a new guard, gave the 
title of "Caesar" to Clodius Albinus in Britian, and 
headed east with his loyal legions to fight the gover- 
nor of Syria, Pescennius Niger. After battles across 
Asia Minor, the big victory came at Issus in south- 
eastern Cilicia in 194. There, over half a millennium 
earlier, Alexander the Great had defeated the Persian 
hosts. In 195 Severus punished the Parthian allies 
who had helped Niger. He then proclaimed Caracalla 
Caesar, made himself adopted brother of the mur- 
dered Antonine Commodus and therefore "son" of 
the revered Marcus Aurelius (161 -180), and, finally, 
marched back to Lugdunum (Lyons) to eliminate 
Clodius Albinus in 197. 

There was one major loose end to wrap up, a 
massive attack on the heartland Parthians, who were 
the successors of the Seleucid kings and, ultimately, 
the old Persian empire east of Syria. A string of vic- 
tories ended with annexations of new areas in 199, 
triumphal tours of Syria and Egypt, proclamation of 
Septimius Severus and Caracalla (an emperor since 
198) as joint-consuls at Antioch-on-the-Orontes in 
January 202, and, finally, a return to Rome. Thus, in 
the lands of the rising sun where Alexander the 
Great had won immortality, Septimius Severus and 
his royal son, officially named Marcus Aurelius 
Antoninus, found their dynastic fortunes. 

Severan Policies in the Arts: Glorification of Helios- 
Sol— Alexander the Great 

As with every new Roman imperial dynasty from 
the Julio-Claudians (Augustus) through the Flavians 
(Vespasian) and the Spanish emperors (Trajan and 
Hadrian) to the Antonines (Antoninus Pius), policies 
in the visual arts, portrait sculptures and numismatic 
designs were inaugurated to glorify the new rulers, 
their ancestors both real and political, their aspira- 
tions, and their successes. Septimius Severus had 
much to proclaim and, also, much to explain. He 
was of mixed Roman and African stock, the first 
person who might be considered black to rule the 
western civilized world, in an era when, to borrow 
the coinage of Frank M. Snowden, Jr., color preju- 

Fig. 2 

Helios in frontal quadriga. Bronze 
coin of Kolossai in Phrygia, struck 
185-195. Museum of Fine Arts, 


dice was not yet invented. Julia Domna, Severus's 
wife, could trace her ancestry back through the last, 
minor kings of Emesa (Horns) in Syria to the great 
Seleucid dynasty and thence to the Macedonian suc- 
cessors of Alexander the Great. And Septimius 
Severus was no parvenu: his family had had eques- 
trian status, with members in the Senate, and he had 
been a consul in 190 under Commodus. Yet he had 
killed thousands of Roman soldiers, allies, and citi- 
zens of great old cities like Byzantium, Cyzicus, 
Nicaea, and Syrian Antioch, not to mention Gaul in 
the West, in his quest for sole power. He had exter- 
minated the aristocratic and other supporters of his 
rivals, while nourishing the fiction that his official 
ancestry went back to Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and 
all the Antonines. The arts were called upon to 
account for a lot. 

If there could be one youthful god who could per- 
sonify the rise of Severan fortunes from the East, 
where Niger and the Parthians had been wasted and 
Julia Domna's semidivine ancestors had held sway 
from Asia Minor to Afghanistan, it was the Greek 
Helios or the Roman Sol, the true symbol and em- 

bodiment of the sun (fig. 2). From the beginning, 
the Hellenistic Greeks saw the rising sun as a per- 
sonified symbol of Alexander the Great's conquests 
of the East, and the young, athletic god with long 
locks and radiate crown came to take on the divine 
Macedonian's features. Such was the case with the 
Colossus of Rhodes, created fewer than fifty years 
after Alexander's death. Other young gods who had 
triumphed in the East, like Dionysos, came to take 
on the face of the conqueror who died at Babylon 
and was buried in Egyptian Alexandria. A large- 
scale marble head of this divine type was found at 
Scythopolis, a city of the Decapolis on the borders 
of the Holy Land, and is now in the Palestine Archae- 
ological (Rockefeller) Museum in Jerusalem (fig. 3). 

Helios-Sol under Several Guises, in Antonine, 
Flavian, and Early Severan Times 

At the height of the Roman Empire, in the period of 
peace and prosperity under the Antonines, the figure 
of Helios-Sol assumed further aspects, becoming 
Aion or Aeternitas to suggest the immortality of 
imperium. When the Emperor Antoninus Pius died 
and was cremated in 161, the site of cremation in the 
Campus Martius of Rome was marked by an eagle- 
topped column with a sculptured base. The major 

Fig- 3 

Young divinity-Alexander the Great. 
Jerusalem, Palestine Archaeological 
Museum, from Scythopolis. 
Photograph by Kristin Anderson. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV Number 4 


The Rise of the Severan Dynasty in the East 

Fig- 4 

Aion-Aeternitas carrying Antoninus 
Pius and Faustina I heavenward. Base 
of the Column of Antoninus Pius. 
Vatican Museums, Rome. 

scene showed Antoninus Pius and his empress, Faus- 
tina I, who had died back in 141, being carried sky- 
ward to the ranks of the gods and goddesses on the 
back of a winged figure with face and physique 
based on the Hellenistic images of Helios-Alexander 
the Great (fig. 4). The connection with Aeternitas 
identified Helios-like figures with the stability of the 
imperial family throughout the empire, as well as 
with triumphs in the old Hellenistic East. 

Associations between Helios-Alexander the Great 
and an emperor on the rise in the East are perfectly 
documented on a silver denarius struck at an eastern 
mint in the first months of the emperor Vespasian's 
advent to power and his march on Rome in the year 
69. The obverse of the coin gives us the facing bust 
of the radiate Helios-Sol, and the reverse is domi- 
nated by a cuirassed general-emperor, who had been 
detailed by the emperor Nero to suppress the revolt 
of Jews in the Holy Land and restore the authority of 
Herod's family and the Roman procurators (fig. 5). 
When Vespasian (ruled 69-79) successfully entered 
Rome, he found that the egocentric Nero had placed 
a colossal statue of himself as Helios-Sol in the plea- 
sure gardens near where Vespasian was to build and 

Fig. 5 

Silver denarius of Helios, and 
Vespasian in military uniform, hand 
raised in salute, struck 69-70. British 
Museum, London. 


his son-successor was to dedicate the Flavian Amphi- 
theater, known to the people as the Colosseum after 
the statue nearby. Some say Vespasian had the head 
of the great statue changed from an idealization of 
Nero to a similar presentation of his own plump, 
robust features. Other ancient sources report that, 
eventually, the colossal statue's head was recast to 
represent just Helios-Sol, meaning the iconography 
of Alexander the Great as seen on the early denarius 
of Vespasian. The statue was moved by Hadrian dur- 
ing his rule (117- 138) and was surely melted down 
in the late fourth century when even the only mildly 
pagan Helios-Sol no longer appeared in Roman 
imperial art. 

From the Antonines back to the Flavians and back 
again to the Severans, the path laid out for Helios- 
Sol-Alexander across the imperial firmament was 
well charted. By the third century after Christ, 
notions of Roman imperial Aeternitas had been 
threatened by barbarian onslaughts and civil wars. In 
an effort at official, propagandistic escape from the 
harsh realities of economic and military decline, 
imperial perceptions of Helios-Sol assumed qualities 
unparalleled for any of the major Olympian protec- 
tors of the ancient world. At the height of Severus's 
reign early in the third century, in the year 207 to be 
precise, mint masters struck a gold aureus with the 
imperial bust on the obverse and a bust of Helios- 
Sol on the reverse, rays springing from the curly hair 
and a cloak around the shoulders (fig. 6). The reverse 
inscription refers to Helios-Sol as PACATOR 
ORBIS. The Sun as pacifier of the universe was a 
pleasing new concept for a dynasty, the Severan, that 
had won the empire by fighting everywhere from 
Mesopotamia to Marseilles. Identified with Helios, 
the emperor or his princely successor-designate 
could appear as both a conqueror in Alexander the 
Great's image and a bringer of peace, including the 
agricultural prosperity of sunny weather. 

Fig. 6 

Gold aureus of Septimius Severus and 
Helios as pacifier of the universe, 
struck 207. Berlin Museums. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin. Volume XIV Number 4 


The Rise of the Severan Dynasty in the East 

Fig- 7 

Aureus of Trajan and Helios with 
Parthian title, struck 116. Museum of 
Fine Arts, Boston. 

Helios-Sol as a Military and Dynastic Symbol on 
Coins oj Trajan and Hadrian 

That the most comfortable role for Helios-Sol was 
to assure the perpetuity of dynastic conquests in the 
East is evidenced from Roman aurei struck in the last 
years of the rule of Emperor Trajan (113 — 117), 
when he was campaigning from Armenia to Arabia, 
and the first two years of Hadrian (117— 118), when 
war broke out again all over the East, from Mesopo- 
tamia to Cyrene in North Africa. The first aureus 
links Trajan's military bust on the obverse with a 
radiate, draped bust of Helios and the title PAR- 
THICO (in the dative as a dedication from the Sen- 
ate and the Roman people) on the reverse (fig. 7). 

Another aureus, an early one of Hadrian, assigns 
to Helios a different military and dynastic task. The 
East (ORIENS), symbolized by the sun-god's bust 
with features somewhat like those of Alexander the 
Great, is shown recognizing Hadrian with all his 
new imperial titles as son of the Parthian victor Tra- 
jan and grandson of the emperor Nerva (96-98) 
(fig. 8). It was the aged Senator Nerva who adopted 
Trajan, who, in turn, may have designated Hadrian 
as his successor, although some say Trajan's wife 
Plotina engineered Hadrian's accession in the turmoil 
following Trajan's untimely death from a stroke. 

A third aureus, also with a bust of Helios on the 
reverse, was struck in 1 1 8 and shows that Hadrian 
was firmly in control in the East as well as every- 
where from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea and a 
bit beyond (fig. 9). Here the sun-god's face is based 
very clearly on a Hellenistic head of Alexander the 
Great. Sensitive, intellectual, later-neurotic Hadrian 
was not above using the visual arts to identify his 
dynastic fortunes with those of the Macedonian hero 
in lands where his last successors were still remem- 
bered and where the last, little Hellenistic client 
kingdoms ruled by Seleucid descendants had only 
recently been terminated by the Romans. 

A final aureus, which demonstrates that Hadrian 
remembered that he was really successor to the 
divine Trajan and not to Helios-Sol, Alexander the 
Great, or any Seleucid king, shows the bust of 
Hadrian's deified "father" Trajan in place of Helios 
on the reverse (fig. 10). The circulation of these four 
coins, Trajan and Helios, Hadrian and Helios, 
Hadrian and Helios-Alexander, and Hadrian with 
Trajan, around the empire, must have helped to root 
the connections between the sun-god, the imperial 
family, and imperial policies in the East in the minds 
of Romans and barbarians alike. 

Fig. 9 

Aureus of Hadrian and Helios- 
Alexander, struck 118. Museum of 
Fine Arts, Boston. 

Fig. 8 

Aureus of Hadrian and Helios of the 
Orient, struck 117. Museum of Fine 
Arts, Boston. 

Fig. 10 

Aureus of Hadrian and the deified 
Trajan, struck 117- 118. Museum of 
Fine Arts, Boston. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV Number 4 


The Rise of the Severan Dynasty in the East 

Fig. ii 

Bronze statuette of Helios in military 
costume, from lower Egypt, Roman 
Imperial Period. Musee du Louvre, 

The Military Helios in Egypt 

A bronze statuette of Helios-Sol brought to the 
Musee du Louvre in Paris from lower Egypt in 1852 
leaves no doubt that the sun-god was a military 
figure in the second or third centuries of the Roman 
Empire (fig. 1 1). His face and hair are modeled on 
the Lysippic portraits of Alexander the Great, or the 
Alexander Rondinini identified with Leochares, in 
the fourth century B.C. The sun-god's armor is that 
of a Hellenistic or Roman officer — a Roman impe- 
rial field cuirass, with cloth belt or cingulum, of the 
second or third century after Christ, based on a type 
found in Athenian funerary monuments during 
Alexander the Great's lifetime. Seven rays from the 
diadem or crown on Helios-Sol's head suggest the 
days the sun-god worked. The god's left hand holds 
a cornucopia around which a serpent is entwined. 
This confirms that the military Helios-Sol, the face a 
likeness of Alexander the Great, was also thought of 
as a bearer of health and plenty, the by-products of 
peace, in the East. 

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (Caracalla) Augustus as 

Severan fortunes, Severan artistic policies, and 
Roman imperial iconographic traditions in the East 
set the stage for the depiction of Septimius Severus's 
older son and coemperor as the sun-god. A marble 
statue in the North Carolina Museum of Art, Em- 
peror Caracalla in the Guise of Helios, shows the 
seventeen-year-old prince standing tall, larger than 
life, six and a half feet in height, almost seven feet 
counting the plinth on which the figure is placed 
(figs. 1 and 12-17). The crown on his head contains 
holes for twelve rays, one for each Olympian divin- 
ity or for each sign of the zodiac or month of the 
year, again an allusion to the eternal qualities of the 
sun-god and, by implication, of the Severan dynasty. 
Pinned with a large, imperial brooch on the right 
shoulder, the god's cloak is arranged across chest and 
back, and is brought forward under the left arm to 
fall over the left forearm below the elbow The statue 
is supported by a massive tree trunk behind the left 
leg and thigh, and the legs are braced by a huge rec- 
tangular strut running from tree trunk to left calf 
and then on across to the calf of the right leg. 
Although impossible not to notice, this strut is not 
offensive; it virtually disappears as the viewer moves 
from one side of the statue to the other. Finally, 
there is the head of one of the horses of the sun-god, 
replete with bridle and reins for driving the chariot 
across the sky, against the front of the tree-trunk 
support. The horse's head could be thought of as ris- 
ing out of the eastern ocean around the earth, as the 
chariot of the sun-god begins its daily course across 
the sky. 

Superficial damage to the statue is evident from 
crown to plinth to horse's left ear and mouth. The 
twelve solar rays were made of bronze, shining 
golden or enhanced with gilding, in either case de- 
signed to suggest the sun's golden shafts of light. 
Questions demanding iconographic and aesthetic 
answers are the action of the extended right arm and 
hand, which are missing from above the elbow, and 
the attribute in the missing left hand and against the 
left shoulder. Numerous appearances of Helios-Sol 
standing, on the reverses of Severan and later Roman 
imperial coins, suggest the statue's right hand was 
raised, palm open and turned upward, in a classical 
gesture of salute and benediction (figs. 26 and 5). 
This Roman salute would symbolize the blessings 
conferred by the sun-god on all mankind in an era 
when the emperor Caracalla would soon (the year 


Fig. 12 

Emperor Caracalla in the guise of 
Helios, North Carolina Museum of 

Figs. 13-14 

Emperor Caracalla in the guise of 
Helios (details), North Carolina 
Museum of Art. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV Number 4 


The Rise of the Severan Dynasty in the East 

Fig. 15 

Emperor Caracalla in the guise of 
Helios (detail), North Carolina 
Museum of Art. 

212) bestow Roman citizenship on all free people in 
the empire. Alternatively, the right hand could have 
held the whip with which Helios urged on his char- 
iot or the caduceus, the snake-entwined staff of good 

The object in the left hand and along the upper 
arm is a torch, which represents the sun-god as light 
of the world (fig. 15). The horse's head as support 
beside the leg of Helios-Sol was an attribute of the 
Dioskouroi, Castor and Pollux, the young heavenly 
twins, brother and half-brother of Helen of Troy, 
divine horsemen often used to portray Caracalla and 
his younger brother Geta as princely offspring of the 
Jovian Septimius Severus. Statues of Castor made in 
the second century of the Roman Empire show a 
crescent moon and a star on his cap, which indicate 
that the twins lived in the sky through which Helios 
passed (fig. 18). 

Figs. 16-17 

Emperor Caracalla in the guise of 
Helios (details), North Carolina 
Museum of Art. 


The Portrait of Caracalla 

Comparisons with the various divine and real faces 
illustrated so far, especially with the rather cold, 
ideal, academic Dioskouros in Kansas City, confirm 
that the Helios in the North Carolina Museum of 
Art is more than merely an early Hellenistic concept 
of the sun-god, with an iconographic bow to the 
traditional representation of Alexander the Great. 
The Raleigh Helios is a true portrait, albeit heroized 
with the sun-god's upward glance and with an exag- 
gerated, lengthened version of the leonine hairstyle 
of Alexander. This Helios-Sol is a likeness of a 
specific young man of the Roman Empire, the older 
son of Septimius Severus, who officially became 
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus when the family adopted 
itself into the family of the great Marcus Aurelius 
and his popular predecessor Antoninus Pius. The 
name Caracalla, an affectation of the Severan 
legions, came later, bestowed because the young 
emperor wore the rough, wool cloak of the common 
soldier when marching from York to Damascus or 
when campaigning in the field. 

The moody brows, the snub nose, the small lips, 
the broad cheeks, and the full chin (despite various 
damages) are signatures of the adolescent Caracalla 
at seventeen years of age, in the year 204. Such pre- 
cise dating, given perhaps a year's time lag, is arrived 
at by comparisons with the portrait of Caracalla on 
the Arch of the Argentarii (the Moneychangers) in 
the Forum Boarium (the Cattle Market) between the 
Capitoline Hill and the River Tiber in Rome. The 
inscription tells us that this arch, really a rectangular 
gateway with sculptures and rich architectural mold- 
ings, was dedicated between December 203 and 
December 204. The Arch of the Argentarii in Rome 
and the statue of Caracalla as Helios-Sol-Alexander 
belong to the years when the Severans were enjoying 
the fruits of all their marches, battles, intrigues, pro- 
scriptions, and political settlements in East and 
West. A number of other, less-godlike official por- 
traits of Caracalla in marble revolve around the like- 
ness on the Arch of the Argentarii. Caracalla's por- 
trait in a sacrifice scene is however, perhaps more 
conservative, more Roman than the face of the 
Helios statue and may suggest that Caracalla is a lit- 
tle older, say eighteen, in the Raleigh statue (fig. 19). 

The panel on the Arch of the Argentarii also 
included Caracalla's child-bride Fulvia Plautilla, but 
her image was rubbed out, either in 205 when she 
was banished following her praetorian-prefect father's 
downfall, or in 212, after Geta's assassination, when 

Fig. 18 

Dioskouros (Kastor), Roman 
Imperial Period, time of Hadrian, 
about 125. William Rockhill Nelson 
Gallery of Art, Kansas City, Missouri. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV Number 4 


The Rise of the Severan Dynasty in the East 

Caracalla had her put to death. Caracalla and Plau- 
tilla were married in 202, and she appears on Roman 
imperial coins and on coins of more than fifty urban 
mints in the Greek imperial world. If the statue of 
Helios-Caracalla was set up before Plautilla's re- 
moval, there could have been a companion statue 
showing her as Selene-Luna, goddess of the moon. 
Such parallels in iconography, Helios-Sol for the 
Augustus and Selene-Luna for the Augusta, were 
found on the Severan coins of Asia Minor and 
beyond. When Caracalla as sole survivor introduced 
the Roman imperial coin named after himself, the 
Antoninianus or double-denarius, he was portrayed 
with the crown of Helios-Sol and his mother, Julia 
Domna, had the crescent of Selene-Luna behind her 

A large head from a marble statue or draped bust 
of the young Caracalla belonged in the early days of 
the Turkish republic to a British ambassador. It was 
purchased at Kula in eastern Lydia, a center for 
antiquities from several Greco-Roman sites, includ- 
ing cities like Sebaste in western Phrygia. This por- 
trait carried the Roman model on the Arch of the 
Argentarii from the heart of the imperial capital into 
inner Asia Minor. The head exhibits greater matu- 

rity and a somewhat more heroic cast or treatment, 
a stepping-stone to the inspired face of young Cara- 
calla as the sun-god (fig. 20). 

There are also numerous Roman imperial coins, 
some Roman bronze medallions, and many issues 
from various cities in Asia Minor, the Greek impe- 
rial coins, which show precisely this portrait of 
Caracalla in profile. The large bronze example 
adduced here was struck at Sebaste in Phrygia, a city 
not far from the modern market town where the 
marble head of Caracalla was acquired (fig. 21). 

Sources for the Statue 

Fig. 19 

Caracalla, sacrificing at small altar- 
table, Plautilla erased, 204. Interior 
relief on the Arch of the Argentarii, 

Except for its individual face and cascading locks of 
deeply-drilled, undercut hair, the figure of Emperor 
Caracalla in the Guise of Helios in the North Caro- 
lina Museum of Art is certainly a good mechanical 
copy of some famous statue of Helios or Helios - 
Alexander the Great created at the outset of the 
Hellenistic age or in the early Roman imperial 
period, when works of sculpture were invented in 
styles developed originally from Myron around 450 
B.C. through Lysippos in the 320s or slightly later. 
The top and back of the head, the locks on the neck 


Fig. 20 

Caracalla from Lydia or western 
Phrygia, about 204. Private 
collection, London. 

at the rear, and the cloak behind the shoulders were 
left in a roughened state. This method of carving 
and finishing often happened in the Greek imperial 
world when a statue was commissioned to be set in 
the niche of a theater, a fountain house (nymphaeum), 
or a building dedicated to the cult of the imperial 
family (Sebasteion or Kaisareioti). 

The torso not covered by the cloak and the legs of 
the Helios-Caracalla are well finished, without the 
high, mechanical polish characteristic of small sculp- 
tures from several workshops in western Asia Minor. 
That a pointing machine was involved in the copy is 
confirmed by the appearance of a puntello or rectan- 
gular bump used for guiding the carver to the final 
surfaces, a mark in relief that was left on the right 
rear buttock, where it would not be seen when the 
statue was placed in its semicircular niche (fig. 22). 
This manner of copying a statue's lower back, from 
cloak to backside to upper legs, was common for 
statues and fragments found in major Flavian through 
Severan cities all over the Greek and Roman East. 
Such statues were set up, for example, in the gym- 
nasium, baths, and theater areas of Salamis on the 
eastern coast of Cyprus. A tantalizing fragment of a 
statue like Helios-Caracalla in Raleigh lies on the 
ground amid the extensive ruins of Caesarea Mari- 
tima, a coastal city in ancient Samaria and modern 
Israel (fig. 23). 

Fig. 21 

Caracalla on bronze coin of Sebaste 
in western Phrygia, about 204. The 
reverse shows Perseus, aided by 
Athena, decapitating Medusa. 
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV Number 4 


The Rise of the Severan Dynasty in the East 

Fig. 22 

Emperor Caracalla in the guise of 
Helios (detail), North Carolina 
Museum of Art. 

Fig- 23 

Fragment of a statue similar to 
Emperor Caracalla in the Guise of 
Helios. Caesarea in Samaria, Israel, 
on the site. Photograph by Kristin 

It is impossible to make more than an educated 
guess on the name of the sculptor of the ultimate 
original statue behind Emperor Caracalla in the 
Guise of Helios. The handling of the drapery recalls 
that of the Vatican Ganymede or the Apollo Belve- 
dere, both Roman copies connected with Leochares, 
who worked on the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus 
and lived to do statues of Alexander the Great. The 
grandest early Hellenistic Helios, the godfather of all 
such statues, was the Colossus of Rhodes, created in 
bronze between 292 and 280 B.C. by Chares of 
Lindos, a pupil of Lysippos. Slender but tangible 
evidence suggests that this great statue had the ideal 
features, the face of Alexander the Great and stood 
shading the eyes with his right hand, a pose not 
much different from the statue in Raleigh. Although 
toppled by an earthquake some sixty years after its 
construction, the Colossus of Rhodes lay on the 
ground for all to see and copy throughout the re- 
mainder of classical antiquity Small marble reliefs 
give the general pose, and the coins of Rhodes in the 
Hellenistic age show an Alexander-like head en- 
framed by long locks and crowned with twelve rays, 

as is Helios-Caracalla. The marble original of the 
Raleigh statue could have been a lesser work by 
Chares, or it might have been a prototype of about 
325 B.C. common to both the Hellenistic Colossus 
of Rhodes and various Roman imperial statues. 

A further clue to the date of the statue on which 
Helios-Caracalla was based is the inclusion of the 
horse's head (fig. 24). Animals in Greek and Roman 
art are often timeless; cows and dogs seem to go 
back to famous statues by Myron at the outset of the 
Athenian Golden Age. Horses, however, became 
larger and more naturalistic about the time Alexan- 
der the Great rode Bucephalus across Asia Minor, 
into the Achaemenian-Persian heartland and up into 
the mountains sloping into Afghanistan. The bridled 
horse's head and reined neck beside the left leg of 
Helios-Caracalla is a steed in the best traditions of 
Athenian sculpture around 320 B.C. Compare, for 
example, the powerful, muscular stallion being con- 
trolled with a carrot in one hand and a whip in the 
other by a smallish black groom, a trainer of horses 
from Arabia or Africa, in a relief found in Athens on 
the ancient city's outskirts toward Eleusis and 


Museum of Art. 

Fig- 25 

Horse and groom from Athens, about 
320 B.C. National Museum, Athens. 

Megara (fig. 25). This relief must have come from a 
big funerary monument or cenotaph (since the rider 
is missing) of an Athenian general (the panther-skin 
saddle cloth suggests this) of about 320 B.C., just 
before such monuments were curtailed by a decree of 
austerity The Athenian stallion's head has the same, 
if not slightly more, naturalistic qualities preserved 
in the equine symbol at the feet of the Severan sun- 
god in Raleigh. 

Helios-Caracalla and Other Young Severans 

When Septimius Severus died at York in 21 1, he did 
so exhorting his young sons Caracalla and Geta 
(raised to full rank in 209) to enrich the army and 
trust no others. In the following year Caracalla 
caused Geta to be murdered in the imperial palace 
that they had divided up between them on the Pala- 
tine in Rome. By 215 Caracalla was a tough soldier 
worthy of his "rough cloak" nickname and an overt 
imitator of Alexander the Great (even to recruiting a 

"Macedonian phalanx" to accompany him eastward). 

On the emperor's arrival in Egypt, the mint of 
Rome, or one of its ateliers closer to the imperial 
entourage, struck an impressive gold aureus with 
Caracalla's military bust on the obverse along with 
the unmerited title PIUS and the name GERMAN- 
ICUS, won while fighting the Alemanni along the 
Danube. The reverse of the specimen seen here, 
which belonged to the legendary Sir Arthur Evans 
and was found near Alexandria in Egypt, gives the 
imperial magisterial dates equivalent to 216 and fea- 
tures Helios-Sol-Alexander in the pose of the statue 
at the North Carolina Museum of Art (fig. 26). The 
coin shows a radiate crown on the god's head. The 
cloak is pinned on the right shoulder and is wrapped 
around the left arm. The right hand is extended 
with the palm out and upward in a salute of bene- 
diction. Only the attribute in the left hand is differ- 
ent, being the orb of world dominion. Such a Helios 
appeared on coins of later emperors involved in the 
East throughout the remainder of the third century. 
At the time this coin was struck, Caracalla was cam- 
paigning from Armenia through Mesopotamia to 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV, Number 4 


The Rise of the Severan Dynasty in the East 

Fig. 26 

Aureus of Caracalla with Helios 
standing on the reverse, struck 216. 
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 

northeast Syria. On a road near Carrhae he was to 
be cut down from behind by a few disaffected sol- 
diers while he was relieving himself. 

After the death of Caracalla, Macrinus the Prefect 
was proclaimed emperor and his very young son 
Diadumenianus became Caesar, a title equivalent to 
crown-prince. But the armies longed for the glorious 
days under Septimius Severus and the brutal but 
respected Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, or Caracalla. 
The ladies of Julia Domna's royal Syrian family 
played on this military nostalgia, securing the empire 
first for a worthless young priest of the Syrian sun- 
god named Elagabalus (218-222), and then for his 
much-finer first cousin with the splendid and his- 
toric official name of Marcus Aurelius Severus Alex- 
ander (222-235). Rumors circulated that both these 
young Severans were natural sons of their cousin 

In the several months before the army and people 
of Rome put Elagabalus to death along with his 
mother Julia Soemias (Julia Domna's niece and 
Caracalla's first cousin), the sun-priest emperor was 
forced to tolerate little Severus Alexander as Caesar. 
This Alexander's mother, Julia Mamaea (sister to 
Julia Soemias), worked successfully to secure sole 
power for her little boy. The city of Thysteira in 
Lydia commemorated the uneasy truce between the 
Syrian sisters and the joint rule of their progeny by 
striking a huge bronze medallion with the imperial 
bust on the obverse, and on the reverse, a form of 
Helios popular in inner Lydia, in which Helios drove 
a splayed-apart, four-horsed chariot (fig. 27). Once 
again, associations between Helios and new or 
young Roman rulers were manifest in the East. 

Traditions of Helios 

Through all the links between the emperors, Helios, 
and Alexander the Great, it should be remembered 
that Helios rising from the oceans of the East was a 
standard theme in the pediments of Greek and 
Roman temples from the Parthenon at Athens around 
440 B.C. onward. In its final form in the second cen- 
tury of the Roman Empire, even the great Temple of 
Jupiter Capitolinus on the Capitoline Hill in Rome 
had Helios-Sol driving his four-horsed chariot up- 
ward in the lefthand angle of the pediment and 
Selene-Luna heading downward into the western sea 
on the other side of the enthroned Olympians, 
Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva (Zeus, Hera, and Athena), 

4 6 

Fig. 27 

Elagabalus and Severus Alexander, 
Helios in quadriga on the reverse. 
Bronze medallion of Thyateira in 
Lydia, struck 221-222. Museum of 
Fine Arts, Boston. 

whom the Romans felt controlled destiny. In the 
troubled third century of the empire, when the pow- 
ers of the Capitoline triad seemed to wane, Helios- 
Sol became a god almost more important than 
Jupiter, and he certainly eclipsed Juno and Minerva 
(who did live on as holy wisdom). 

A left-hand section of a small pediment, two sur- 
viving blocks of what must have totaled five, in the 
collections of the University of California at Berke- 
ley shows Helios-Sol-Alexander the Great driving 
his four horses upward over a reclining personifica- 
tion of Oceanus or Thalassa (fig. 28). Mother Earth 
(Tellus or Ge, Terra Mater) must have reclined in the 
other direction on the downward side, which then 
showed Selene-Luna driving her two bulls into the 
seas beyond. The date of this surviving section of 
pediment is not far from that of the Helios-Caracalla 
in Raleigh. Analogies from other such pediments in 
Greece and Asia Minor make it tempting to think 
the central block had a bust of Caracalla or Elaga- 
balus or Severus Alexander on a circular shield (the 
mirror of the sun) in high relief, as the focus of the 
wide triangle. Such a pediment surely would have 
surmounted the small shrine or canopy in which was 
placed the statue of Helios-Caracalla now in Raleigh. 

Caracalla, young or mature, would not have been 
shy about being portrayed as Helios-Sol-Alexander 
or put on a pedestal in a pediment or elsewhere. He 
enjoyed such honors as a lad in his teens and made 
them an even greater part of his forceful image when 
he reached his mid-twenties and sole rule. Proof of 
this comes in a very rare coin of Side in Pamphylia 
on the southern coast of Asia Minor, struck about 
the end of 214 or into 215, as Caracalla was pro- 
gressing across Asia Minor on the way to wars in the 
East. The coin shows the emperor's ferocious bust in 
wreath, cloak, and armor on the obverse. On its 
unusual reverse (fig. 29), a giant bust of Caracalla, 
similarly dressed and equipped, is mounted on a cir- 
cular pedestal of the type used to display such busts 
in museums nowadays. In front of the bust stands 
Ares-Mars, the god of war in full armor, spear held 
vertically in the right hand and a parazonium or 
sheathed sword in the left. Or it may be that this 
youthful figure in Greek field helmet and cuirass of 
about 325 B.C. is not Alexander the Great. Ares or 
Alexander, he stands to admire Caracalla, who has 
displaced god or hero on the pedestal. All this sug- 
gests considerable conceit. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV, Number 4 


The Rise of the Severan Dynasty in the East 

Fig. 28 

Section of pediment with Helios and 
Oceanus, Severan Period. Lowie 
Museum of Anthropology, University 
of California at Berkeley. 

Fig. 29 

Caracalla's bust contemplated by 
Ares-Alexander the Great. Bronze 
coin of Side in Pamphylia, struck 
about 215. Museum of Fine Arts, 

4 8 

Summation: Helios-Caracalla at the Apogee of 
Greek Imperial Art 

The ideas and interconnections put forth here swirl, 
like the cloak of the sun-god, around a large and 
very impressive work of art. The statue in the North 
Carolina Museum of Art, Emperor Caracalla in the 
Guise of Helios, emerges as an imperial masterpiece 
of the very decades, during the reign of Septimius 
Severus (193-21 1), when older orders and values in 
the classical world were giving way to the substance 
and spirit of late antiquity So much is embodied in 
this image, Greek athletic art of the fourth century 
B.C., the mystique of Alexander the Great, the rise 
of an Afro-Syrian dynasty in the Roman Empire, 
and, finally, the emergence of a god challenging the 
old Olympian pantheon in the minds and hearts of 
the ancient world. Helios survived most other pagan 
divinities in the age of Constantine the Great 
(306-337) and the rise of Christianity. His radiate 
qualities, transferred to the emperor, were to pass to 
the saints of Byzantium and the Latin West. The 
chariot of Helios became the chariots of fire of the 
prophet Elias or Elisha, and in this way the sun-god 
is still worshipped on the mountaintops of the east- 
ern Christian world. In hindsight, artists under Sep- 
timius Severus seem prophetic in their portrayal of 
the young Caracalla as Helios. 

Cornelius C. Vermeule is Curator of Classical Art at the 
Museum of Fine Arts, Bostoti. 


Thanks are due to Mary Comstock, John Herrmann, Mary Ellen 
Soles, Florence Wolsky, Mohammad Yeganeh, David Herrmann, 
and friends at Complete Photo in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for 
help with this study. 

The works of art cited and illustrated in these pages can, for the 
most part, be found in publications of the Department of Classi- 
cal Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Figs. 3 and 23 appear in 
Jewish Relations with the Art of Ancient Greece and Rome (198 1). 
Figs. 4-10 and 26 will also appear in "Alexander the Great Con- 
quers Rome," the proceedings of the symposium on Alexander 
the Great held at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, in May 
1983. Fig. 11 is in A. de Ridder, Les bronzes antiques du Louvre, I, 
Les figurines, Paris 1913, p. 55, no. 344. Figs. 18 and 28 are pub- 
lished in Greek and Roman Sculpture in America, the J. Paul Getty 
Museum and University of California Press, 198 1, as nos. 173 
and 199. Fig. 19 is catalogued in E. Nash, Pictorial Dictionary of 
Ancient Rome I, New York, Frederick A. Praeger, 1968, p. 89, fig. 

91; also, Caracalla's portrait, and fig. 20, are in H. B. Wiggers, 
M. Wegner, Das Romische Herrscherhild, 111 Abteilung, Band 1, 
Berlin 1971, pp. 77, pis. 2a, 2b, 23a, and 66. Fig. 21 is discussed 
in depth in Art oj Antiquity, vol. 5, part 1, Numismatic Studies, 
Divinities and Mythological Scenes in Greek Imperial Art (1983), no. 
1 5. Fig. 25, the Athenian "Horse and Groom Relief," is pp. 33, 
193, pi. 46, of Greek Art: Socrates to Sulla (1980), and is discussed 
in "The Horse and Groom Relief in Athens," Greek, Roman, and 
Byzantine Studies 10, presented to Sterling Dow on his eightieth 
birthday, edited by K. J. Rigsbee, Duke University Press, Dur- 
ham, North Carolina, 1984, pp. 297-300. Fig. 27, the medallion 
of Elagabalus and Severus Alexander, appears in The Museum 
Year: ig82-8j, pp. 23, illus., 43; also, F. Sternberg, Zurich, Auc- 
tion XI, 198 1, no. 305. Finally, fig. 29, Caracalla at Side in 
Pamphylia, is in Romans and Barbarians (1976), no. C 83; and 
Roman Art in Greece and Asia Minor (1968), frontispiece. The coin 
of Kolossai in Phrygia, here fig. 2, is also in Roman Art in Greece 
and Asia Minor (1986), p. 163, fig. 98 in the latter book. 

The most sensible reconstructions ot the Colossus of Rhodes, 
together with illustrations of a relief and a coin reflecting the huge 
bronze, and a history of the statue's fortunes, appear in H. 
Maryon, "The Colossus of Rhodes," The Journal of Hellenic Studies 
76, 1956, pp. 68-86, figs. 1-4. The iconography of Alexander 
the Great was also well explored in The Search for Alexander, An 
Exhibition, New York Graphic Society, Boston, 1980-83, includ- 
ing likenesses of his successors who sought to be shown in his 
semidivine image. Of the five or six supplements to this cata- 
logue, the best for numismatic iconography and Greek imperial 
survivals is the Supplement of The Royal Ontario Museum, 
Toronto, Canada, 5 March to iojuly 1983. Severan preoccupation 
with the Alexander the Great image, including portraits of Cara- 
calla on big gold medallions featuring Alexander on the reverses, 
or as parallel obverse types, are documented in "Alexander the 
Great, the Emperor Severus Alexander and the Aboukir Medal- 
lions," in Revue Suisse de Numismatique, Vol. 61, 1982, pp. 61-72, 
pis. 5-8. 

Frank M. Snowden, Jr.'s two epoch-making books which deal, 
inter alia, with aristocratic black Romans are Before Color Prejudice: 
The Ancient View of Blacks, Harvard University Press, Cam- 
bridge, Massachusetts, 1983; and Blacks in Antiquity; Ethiopians in 
the Graeco-Roman Experience, Belknap Press ot Harvard University 
Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1970. 

Finally, other but not many marble statues of Helios-Sol have 
survived. One in the Musee du Louvre, Paris, has the features of 
Alexander the Great, is clad in cloak and tunic, and has two 
horses' heads beside the right leg: S. Reinach, Repertoire de la 
statuaire 1, Paris, 1897, p. 169, no. 7. The statue most like North 
Carolina's Helios is in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen: 
S. Reinach, Repertoire de la statuaire 4, Pans, 1910, p. 61, no. 1; F 
Poulsen, Catalogue of Ancient Sculpture, 1951, p. 366, no. 525, pi. 
XXXIX, from Rome and the work of the sculptor Chryseros of 
Aphrodisias in Caria. It is an ideal figure, depending on an ulti- 
mate original similar to that of Helios-Caracalla. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin. Volume XIV. Number 4 


The Iconography of Marriage and Death in Ancient 
Italy: A Funerary Vase from Centuripe 

by J. R. Green 

small hill town of Centuripe, about twenty miles southwest 
of Mount Etna in eastern Sicily, where most examples have 
been found. All Centuripan vases of known provenance come 
from the cemetery in Centuripe, and that they were intended 
as grave vases is clear both from the range of shapes, the 
impractical construction, and the impermanent nature of 
their decoration. 1 

Although the period of Centuripan-pottery 
production is not certain, it is commonly supposed to have 
run through much of the third and perhaps some of the sec- 
ond century B.C. It is a pity that most of the examples from 
the Centuripe cemetery were excavated without regard for 
context or proper recording. Other pieces of this general 
type from a sanctuary in nearby Morgantina, which seems to 
have a destruction date of 211 B.C., have not yet been prop- 

was fortunate enough to acquire an excellent example of a 
Centuripan vase (frontispiece and fig. 2). 2 Because studies of 
Centuripan pottery make but a slender corpus, the vase in 
Raleigh is worth examining in some detail. 

Centuripan pottery takes its name from the 

Fig. 1 

Funerary vase (detail) , North Carolina 
Museum of Art. Purchased with 
funds from the State of North 
Carolina. 75.1.9 

erly published, so one cannot judge their relationship to the 
rest of the Centuripan series. 

In 1975 the North Carolina Museum of Art 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV Number 4 


The Iconography of Marriage and Death in Ancient Italy 

Fig. 2 

Funerary vase, North Carolina 
Museum of Art. 

The shape of this vase is that of a lebes gamikos, a 
wedding vessel of traditional form that was pre- 
sented to the bride together with other offerings on 
the day of her wedding. The Raleigh example is 
large. It stands some 37 inches (94.0 centimeters) 
high and is i2 3 /t inches (32.5 centimeters) in diameter 
at its widest point, the bottom of the lid. Although 
it is reconstructed from fragments, nothing of any 
significance is missing, and it is in a good state of 
preservation. There is some minor repainting, prin- 
cipally along the joins of the fragments. 

The clay is a brick color and contains some white grit, 
but the whole was covered with a slip. The vase was 
made in six separate component parts: the base, an 
intermediate support member, the body and lid, 
another intermediate member, the conical support, 
and the topmost piece. The main part of the lid is 
one with the body. This feature, combined with the 
size and the multiplicity of pieces forming the upper 
part, make it clear that the vase was totally impracti- 
cal for ordinary use. We conclude that it must have 
been intended for the grave, although even carrying 
it in procession to the grave must have been difficult. 
We can speculate that it must have been taken to the 
grave in pieces and had its final assembly in the 

tomb. Because the decoration, both painted and 
relief, is confined to the front half of the vase, it 
must have been intended to stand against a wall. 

The vase stands on a carefully modeled tall foot 
and stem, which bear traces of pink paint that must 
originally have covered the surface. Between the foot 
and stem and the body sits a disc support. The 
present one is modern, but there must have been a 
similar piece there in antiquity. At the bottom of the 
body (fig. 3), immediately above the disc, there is a 
molding decorated with a leaf-and-dart pattern 
picked out in gold paint. Above the molding is a 
ring of foliage that grows up around the lower body. 
The ring of foliage comprises acanthus leaves alter- 
nating with long lotus petals, and in between, small 
buds and rosette flowers. (The rosette from the right 
space is missing.) All the foliage in the ring was 
made separately and applied on the surface of the 
vessel. The acanthus leaves and probably the lotus 
were painted pink against a blue-gray background; 
the rosettes are yellow-gold. The acanthus leaves are 
further enlivened by the addition of gold paint on 
the inner face of the tips of the leaves as they curl 
over. Stems for the buds and flowers may have been 
painted on the surface, but no sign of them remains. 
In the modeling and plasticity of the acanthus and 
the detailing of the flowers, the Raleigh vase is one 
of the most careful and elaborate in the whole 
Centuripan series. It is also one of the few to have 
this combination of acanthus leaves and long petals, 
particularly in such a well-developed form. The 
choice of motif and the elaborate treatment suggest 
that the Raleigh vase belongs to a fairly advanced 
stage in the Centuripan sequence. 

Leaf-and-floral work is characteristic of many arts 
of the middle and third quarter of the fourth century 
B.C. Among those who exploited this fashion was 
the painter Pausias of Sikyon, whose name came to 
be particularly associated with it in later times. 
Pausias's work is reflected in a number of fine mosa- 
ics of that period. The taste for the leaf-and-floral 
motif spread broadly and endured for over a century. 
In the course of the third century B.C., acanthus 
motifs became popular, especially in metalware, 
where one regularly finds acanthus leaves curling up 
from the bases of vessels. 3 

It was from metalware that the idea of developing 
relief decoration seems to have spread to pottery. 
Among the earliest pottery examples are the well- 
known mold-made bowls with decoration in low 
relief, which seem to have been introduced in Athens 
about 225 B.C. Some of the earliest and finest of 


Fig. 3 

Detail of relief ornament at the base 
of the wall of the funerary vase, 
North Carolina Museum of Art. 

these bowls have a combination of acanthus leaves 
and lotus petals with flowers interspersed in a man- 
ner very similar to that on the Raleigh vase (fig. 4). 
Another very attractive example of the motif is the 
interior of the lid of a silver pyxis, or box, found 
many years ago in a hoard in Taranto in southern 
Italy (fig. 5). Its combination of acanthus, lotus pet- 
als, and flowers shows very clearly the effect the pot- 
ter of the Raleigh vase was trying to create. When 
found, the pyxis contained coins of the period 
290-270 B.C. Although it is tempting to date the 
pyxis to the same period and suppose that there was 
some delay before the motif was introduced in pot- 
tery, some scholars suggest that the date of the pyxis 
should be lowered to match the date of the pottery. 
In any event, the foliage on the Raleigh vase suggests 
a provisional date near the end of the third century 
B.C., matching that of the Athenian bowls. 

On the upper wall of the body is another zone of 
relief decoration (fig. 6). Above a line of astragal, or 
bead-and-reel, is a Doric frieze, the metopes con- 
taining little Erotes. Erotes were a favorite motif in 
the Hellenistic world of the third and second centu- 
ries B.C. Commonly found on women's jewelry, 
especially earrings, they seem to have connotations 
not only of love but of good fortune and happiness. 

Such themes may seem strange in the context ot the 
grave, but they are appropriate enough on a vessel 
designed to accompany a woman into a blessed 

The reliefwork on the Raleigh vase is enlivened 
with bright color: against the dark blue background 
of the metopes, the astragal, the triglyphs, and the 
figures are picked out in gold. The objects the Erotes 
carry are hard to make out: they may be tympana 
(like that held by the figure on the right of the 
painted scene below) or they may be paterae, like 
those in the attic zone above. The figures are about 
three quarters of an inch high. Each is the same, 
made from the same series of molds, but they have 
been attached at slightly different angles so that 
some seem to run and others to fly. Several other 
Centuripan vases have a Doric frieze in this position 
with triglyphs and metopes, and some have Erotes, 
but the Raleigh vase again stands apart in the care 
with which the frieze has been carried out. 

Above the frieze, and slightly raised above the 
background surface, is a flat zone painted in black 
against a white background with a rectangular pat- 
tern that has red filling in alternate spaces. The zone 
seems to be intended as a representation of the cof- 
fers of a ceiling, which have been drawn as they 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV Number 4 


The Iconography of Marriage and Death in Ancient Italy 


Fig. 6 

Detail of the upper wall of the 
funerary vase, North Carolina 
Museum of Art. 

would appear to someone looking up at a building: 
we see only the farther (here lower) part. 

Architecture also influences the treatment below 
the projecting edge of the lid. Here, the potter uses 
ideas from the ornamental brackets seen under the 
cornices of buildings, bulls' heads alternating with 
paterae, the libation vessels used for offering wine to 
the gods. The depiction of paterae is suitable in the 
context, as is the depiction of bulls' heads, which 
have a generally sacrificial connotation. The objects 
are gold against a dark blue background, which 
seems to have had pink applied over. 

The edge of the lid has an astragal in relief. Al- 
though the surface is rather worn and the treatment 
somewhat difficult to make out, the upper face of 
the lid has painted decoration. At mid-level is a 
broad band of dark paint, and above and below it, 
zones of verticals between lines in pink. There is also 
a band of pink at the top, and at the edge at the bot- 
tom, a neatly drawn band in a wave pattern. 

At the top of the lid, between two golden bead- 
and-reel moldings, is a frieze in which paterae with 
petal decoration alternate with figures that have their 
arms raised and heads forward, seeming to support 
the upper molding (fig. 7). Gold against a pink 

background, these support figures are of a kind 
known as telamones or atlantes (after Atlas, who sup- 
ported the world on his shoulders). 4 In this case, the 
figures are alternately male and female. The two 
females are maenads; each has long hair and wears a 
peplos. Distinguished by his wild, wavy hair, the 
male is a satyr. He is naked but for a sort of small 
skirt, or perizoma, wrapped about his loins. This is 
perhaps reminiscent of the way actors dressed in the 
part of satyrs in the theater. 

Like the treatments on the upper body of the vase, 
this frieze motif has been borrowed from architec- 
ture. It is regularly used in the upper levels (the 
"attic") of buildings, where the figures are used to 
give visual support to the cornice. The best-known 
example of this kind of treatment is probably the 
attic level of the Forum of Augustus in Rome, con- 
structed at the turn of the first centuries B.C. and 
a.d. (fig. 8). Although the figures on the Forum of 
Augustus copy those of the Erechtheion on the 
Athenian Acropolis, the motif was less popular in 
Greece proper than in Italy. In this respect as in oth- 
ers, the Forum of Augustus is a nice example of the 
blending of Italian with classical Greek traditions. 
Earlier, in southern Italy and Sicily, the support 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV, Number 4 


The Iconography of Marriage and Death in Ancient Italy 

F«g- 7 

The attic member at the top of the 
lid of the funerary vase, North 
Carolina Museum of Art. 

figures were very often satyrs and maenads. The 
scheme probably reached Rome by way of Cam- 
pania, where we have an example with satyrs and 
maenads preserved in the Forum baths at Pompeii of 
80-75 B -C. 

In the south, the first example of the motif is to 
be seen in the great Temple of Olympian Zeus at 
Agrigento in Sicily, about 480 B.C., where huge 
telamones are arranged about the side walls of the 
building. But it was not until the third century B.C. 
and later that such treatments became more com- 
mon and the combination of satyr and maenad 
began to predominate. Examples of the motif can be 
found in the theater at Monte Iato in Sicily, in the 
theater at Syracuse, on a grave monument near Vaste 
in Apulia, in Montescaglioso in Lucania, and in 
what is thought to be an elaborate private house in 
Centuripe itself. Curiously enough, the Raleigh 
example seems to be the only one known in the vase 
series to incorporate the motif. 

The frieze motif serves two main purposes. First, 
it places the vase in a long southern Italian and 
Sicilian tradition in which potters display an archi- 
tectonic sense in the construction and decoration of 

their vessels. Decorative motifs borrowed from the 
cornices of buildings were already commonly used 
on the lips of pots in the red-figure and so-called 
Gnathia vases of Apulia in the fourth century B.C. 
Here, that architectonic tradition is even stronger. 
The vase emerges from the calyx of leaves above the 
stem to the decorated area of a wall; the wall is com- 
pleted by the Doric frieze surmounted by a cornice 
with its bulls' heads and paterae, again borrowed very 
directly from architecture. The lower part of the lid 
forms the first level of the roof, which is in turn 
surmounted by the frieze motif, which was com- 
monly used in architecture at the attic level. Then 
above the frieze comes the crowning element. In this 
sense, the motif is entirely appropriate in its context: 
its evocation of grander monuments adds to the 
grandeur of the vase. 

But the subject matter of the frieze can also be 
interpreted as having an independent meaning. 
Paterae appear not only under the cornice, but prob- 
ably in the hands of the Erotes of the Doric frieze as 
well. They remind us of libation to the gods, and so 
quite likely of good fortune. Satyrs and maenads 
belong to the retinue of Dionysos, the god of wine, 
the theater, and, particularly in southern Italy and 
Sicily, of happiness in the hereafter. Although it 
would be easy to overemphasize the strength of the 
symbolism here, the Raleigh vase was intended for 
the grave, and the general connotation is of happi- 
ness in the afterlife. 

Above the attic frieze comes a saucer-shaped sup- 
port member. We are not certain that this piece 
belongs here, but the vase must have had something 
of this type in this position. Above the support 
member is an intermediate element covered with a 
pink wash. The crowning element is a knob or han- 
dle in the form of a lebes gamikos, that is, a repetition 
of the shape of the vase itself (fig. 9). The repetition 
of the form of the vase in the crown is not uncom- 
mon. By providing a summary of the whole, it 
completes the vase in a satisfactory way. 

The crowning miniature of the Raleigh vase seems 
to have had a white background. There is a band of 
pink on the foot. The frieze has a band of gold. The 
underface of the cornice is dark blue, probably with 
pink over. The leaves at the bases of the handles are 
gold (recalling those below the main part of the 
vase), and there may once have been gold on the ribs 
of the handles and the knobs. The faces of the han- 
dles are pink. The topmost knob seems to have 
traces of gold. 

The main element of the painted decoration is a 


Fig. 8 

Detail of the attic level in the Forum 
of Augustus, Rome. 

Fig. 9 

The knob of the funerary vase, North 
Carolina Museum of Art. 

female head between wings. The face is flesh col- 
ored, the lips red, the other details black, but with 
white on the eyelids. The wings have a gold leading 
edge, then black, with white for the pinion feathers. 
The face is well drawn, and the shading under the 
eyebrows, nose, lips, and chin gives a fine sense of 

The head-between-wings motif occurrs very often 
in southern Italian vase painting of the second half of 
the fourth century B.C., but in the fourth-century 
examples, we are never quite sure if the head repre- 
sents an androgynous Eros or a Nike. Here, the 
head looks decidedly more female, so we think of a 
Nike. Although Nike is commonly taken as a per- 
sonification of Victory, her character was more com- 
plex in ancient iconography and thought. In his The- 
ogony, Hesiod mentions Nike as the daughter of 
Styx, and representations of her occur not infre- 
quently in scenes connected with funerals. In the 
context of this vase painting, however, it is perhaps 
better to think of Nike as a winged genie. She is fre- 
quently shown bringing gifts to the bride of a real 
wedding, bringing the blessing of the spirits of the 
underworld. When the context is funereal, she has 
an even more appropriate part to play. 3 

We have now described everything except what in 
many ways is the most important part of the vase, 
the scene on the body (figs, ioa-c). Like the rest of 
the decoration, it covers one side (the front) only. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV Number 4 


The Iconography of Marriage and Death in Ancient Italy 

The whole is painted against a pink background. 
Much of the lower part of the scene has suffered 

The composition is made up of five adult women 
and two smaller figures. It is closed on the left by a 
floral motif and on the right by a door. The first 
figure on the left is wrapped in a pale yellow himat- 
ion, or cloak, over a blue-black chiton. She is turned 
toward the center, but leans back. Between her and 
the second woman are two smaller figures. The 
figure hovering above is an Eros, holding what is 
probably a garland (the surface is worn). Below, a 
naked child, probably a girl, holds out her hands 
toward the woman. She is probably carrying some- 
thing that has added pink. Although there is an area 
of incrustation behind her shoulders, she is seem- 
ingly not winged. The second woman turns to the 
right but looks back. She wears a necklace and ear- 
rings (painted in yellow, presumably to show them 
as gold), a wreath of white flowers about her head, 
and a chiton with a more loosely draped, yellow 
himation over her left shoulder and lower body. The 
third or central figure stands frontal and wears a 
yellow- white cloak that comes over her head like a 
veil. The main part of her dress is white, and the tie 
strings on the front of her body are pink. She too 

Figs, ioa-c 

Details of the main scene on the 
funerary vase, North Carolina 
Museum of Art. 

wears a necklace. The fourth woman turns slightly 
toward the center but looks away to the right. She 
wears a necklace and earrings, and possibly a wreath 
of flowers. Her himation is pale green, and she has it 
drawn up about her. The fifth, rightmost figure car- 
ries a tympanon (tambourine) in her left hand. She 
turns away but leans back, her pink chiton slipping 
from her shoulder. Her himation is yellow and is 
draped loosely about her arms. The paneled door 
beyond her is done in shades of brown (it is wooden) 
with a white surround, lintel, and threshold. 

The scene is dominated by the central figure. She 
is dressed distinctively, and the other figures turn 
toward her. Her importance is emphasized by small 
sashes that hang from the upper border to either side 
of her head, and by her size: she is slightly larger 
than the other figures. The central figure is the 
bride, and the girls who immediately flank her are 
her attendants. They stand close, and we feel, some- 
what protectively. The two outer figures are slightly 
more detached. The one on the left is separated by 
the smaller figures, the one on the right is turned 
toward the door. If forced to guess, we might sup- 
pose the woman on the left to be the bride's mother, 
who watches the proceedings closely even though 
she is not directly involved. 


The variety of feelings conveyed by the figures is 
rarely seen in vase painting: the brides attendants 
seem protective, the lefthand figure reserved and 
uninvolved. The bride herself looks markedly appre- 
hensive: her eyes are wider and her lips slightly 
parted. That the figure on the right is the most 
relaxed of the group, is conveyed by her pose and by 
the way she allows her chiton to fall. 

Despite the apparent formality of the arrange- 
ment, the painting conveys subtle variation and 
movement. The smaller figures relieve the solemnity 
of the scene somewhat: the motif of a child seeking 
attention at its mother's skirt is used in later treat- 
ments of formal occasions. The outward direction of 
the attendants' gaze draws in the outer figures. More 
important, there is a sense of movement toward the 
right. This begins with the figure on the far left, 
who closes off that side. The two smaller figures are 
both turned toward the right. Although the bride 
seems static and frontal, her weight is on her left leg 
and she leans slightly toward the right. Finally, and 
most significantly, the rightmost woman with the 
tambourine moves right and turns back with a ges- 
ture of the hand to make the bride accompany her. 

Adding to the rightward movement is the direc- 
tion of light, as seen in the highlighting of the faces. 

The door is the farthest point from the source of 
light. The figures are all moving toward the door; 
the painting conveys a moment's pause before they 
enter it. 

In the ancient world, the iconography of wedding 
scenes and of funeral scenes was remarkably similar. 
Since birth was not much celebrated, marriage and 
death were the two major events in a woman's career, 
both marking a move to a different life. Studies of 
modern rural Greece show that even today, tradi- 
tional laments at funerals echo the themes of songs 
sung at weddings, some of which are laments for the 
bride's leaving her prenuptial home. 6 In representa- 
tions of ancient weddings, both Nikai and Erotes 
can appear and bring gifts, and they can both appear 
at funerals, too. A bride in ancient times was likely 
to be much more apprehensive than a modern bride, 
who is normally more familiar with the groom and 
more likely to be embarking on an independent life 
with the groom, rather than a life with his family. 
We see reflections of the apprehension of the bride in 
art, and we read of it in literature. The nuptial agree- 
ment did not involve the bride, but was made be- 
tween the groom and her father or guardian. In art, 
the motif of the actual wedding usually involves the 
man's putting his hand on the girl's wrist to lead her 
away, a very obvious sign of possession and domi- 
nance. A bride was taken from the care of one house 
to the care of another. So, too, at her death she 
passed from the house of her earthly guardian to the 
house of Hades. The door is a symbol of this con- 
cept, the house of her groom or of Hades. 7 

The Raleigh vase exhibits all the elements of wed- 
ding/funeral iconography: Nikai, Erotes, apprehen- 
sion, the protectiveness of friends, the door. The 
central figure pauses for a last glimpse of the mortal 
world before entering the world beyond the door. 
The most carefree figure in the scene is the girl with 
the tambourine, a sign that she belongs to the reti- 
nue of Dionysos and the blessed. She is of that other 
world, and her function is to lead the central figure 
on her way. The painter has depicted all this out- 
standingly well. As so often in Greek painting, the 
figures themselves tell the story. But for the door, 
there is no landscape; the context is implied by the 
actions and attributes of the figures. 

Given the quality of the work, it is reasonable to 
suppose that we have here a good example of con- 
temporary free painting. The technique is predomi- 
nantly linear, especially in the clothes and the out- 
lines of the arms and legs. The color wash is applied 
over and within these lines in a traditional way. On 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XIV Number 4 


The Iconography of Marriage and Death in Ancient Italy 

the other hand, the use of light and shade for the 
faces and to some degree for the arms of the figures 
is quite sophisticated. The painter uses light and 
shade to suggest roundness and three-dimensionality 
successfully, thus breaking away from the linear tech- 
nique that we expect in free painting. The more 
Italic, less Greek, aspects of the work are the domi- 
nant position of the bride in the composition and 
her slightly larger size. They serve to remind us of 
the geographical and historical situation in which the 
vase was made. The architectural treatment of the 
decoration reflects a distinctively southern Italian 
treatment of Greek ideas. Similarly, in the painting, 
the artist exploits known techniques to serve his own 
purposes. On the whole, the funerary vase in the 
North Carolina Museum of Art is a remarkable tes- 
tament to what Centuripan craftsmen could achieve. 

J. R. Green is Professor of Archaeology at the University 
of Sydney, Australia. 


1. For studies of Centuripan pottery, see G. Libertini, Centuripe 
(Catania, 1926); G. Libertini, Atti e Memorie della Societd M. 
Grecia (1932), 187-212; G. Libertini, Notizie degli Scavi 
(1947), 259-311, esp. 278fF; G. M. A. Richter, "Polychrome 
Vases from Centuripe in the Metropolitan Museum," Metro- 
politan Museum Studies 2 (1930): 187-205; G. M. A. Richter, 
"Polychrome Vases from Centuripe in the Metropolitan 
Museum," Metropolitan Museum Studies 4 (1932): 45-54; A. D. 
Trendall, "A New Polychrome Vase from Centuripe," Bulletin 
of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 13 (1955): 161-66; U. 
Wintermeyer, "Die polychrome Reliefkeramik aus Centuripe," 
Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archdologischen Instituts 90 (1975): 

136- 241. 

2. The funerary vase is also illustrated in Edgar Peters Bowron, 
ed., The North Carolina Museum of Art: Introduction to the 
Collections (Raleigh, 1983). Its accession number is 75.1.9. 

3. On the acanthus leaves and similar reliefwork: H. U. von 
Schoenebeck, Mnemosyne Theodor Wiegand (Munich, 1938), 
54-73; R Wuillemier, Le Tresor de Tarente (Pans, 1930); S. I. 
Rotroff, Hellenistic Pottery: Athenian and Imported Moldmade 
Bowls, vol. 22 of The Athenian Agora (Princeton, 1982); W 
Zuchner, "Von Toreuten und Topfern," Jahrbuch des Deutschen 
Archdologischen Instituts 65-66 (1950-51): 175-205; K. 
Parlasca, "Das Verhaltnis der megarischen Becher zum 
alexandnnischen Kunsthandwerk," Jahrbuch des Deutschen 
Archdologischen Instituts 70 (1955): 129-54; H. C. A. Kiith- 
mann, "Beitrage zur hellenistisch-romischen Toreutik," Jahr- 
buch des Romisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums Mainz 5 (1958): 
94-138; H. C. A. Kuthmann, "Utersuchungen zur Toreutik 
des zweiten und ersten Jahrhunderts vor Christus," (Inaugural 
diss., Kallmunz, 1959); L. Byvanck-Quarles van Ufford, Bul- 
letin . . . Antieke Beschaving 33 (1958): 43-52;]. W. Salomon- 
son, "Der hellenistische Topfer als Toreut," Bulletin . . . 
Antieke Beschaving 57 (1982): 164-75. 

4. On telamones, see F Schaller-Harl, Stiitzfiguren in der griechis- 
chen Kunst (Vienna, 1973); E. Schmidt, Geschichte der Karyatid 
(Wiirzburg, 1982). Note also V. Scrinari, "Le terrecotte archi- 
tettoniche del Museo archeologico di Aquileia," Aquileia 
Nostra 24-25 (i953~54): 44~5i- 

5. On winged figures, marriage and death, Dionysiac elements, 
etc., see H. Kenner, "Fliigelfrau-und Flugeldamon," Jahr- 
eshejie des Oesterreichischen Archdologischen Instituts 31 (1939): 
81-95; E. H. Haight, The Symbolism of the Door in Classical 
Poetry (New York, 1950); M. R Nilsson, The Dionysiac Mys- 
teries of the Hellenistic and Roman Age (Lund, 1957); S. Ruther- 
ford Roberts, The Attic Pyxis (Chicago, 1978), 182-84; I. 
Jenkins, "Is There Life after Marriage? A Study of the Abduc- 
tion Motifs in Vase Paintings of the Athenian Wedding Cere- 
mony," Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 30 (1983): 

137- 45; I- S. Mark, "The Gods on the East Frieze of the 
Parthenon" Hesperia 53 (1984): 309-12. 

6. On modern parallels, see M. Alexiou and R Dronke, Studi 
Medaievali (Spoleto) 12, 2 (1971): 819-63; L. M. Darnforth, 
The Death Rituals of Rural Greece (Princeton, 1982), chap. 4. 

7. For a different view — that these scenes show actual wedding 
ceremonies — see R Deussen, "The Nuptial Themes of 
Centuripe Vases," Opuscula Romana 9 (1973): 125-33, but he 
finds it difficult to explain the absence of the groom and the 
use of instruments such as the tambourine or the cymbals 
(which appear in some scenes). 

This publication is supported by a grant from the Samuel H. 
Kress Foundation. Additional support is provided by the 
Newington-Cropsey Foundation as part of their ongoing educa- 
tional programming. 

The North Carolina Museum of Art is an agency of the Depart- 
ment of Cultural Resources, State of North Carolina. Operating 
support is provided through state appropriations and generous 
contributions from the private sector, including individuals, foun- 
dations, and businesses.